What Is the Green Revolution? - Definition, Benefits, and Issues

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  • 0:07 What Is the Green Revolution
  • 1:43 Benefits of the Green…
  • 3:53 Issues with the Green…
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Margaret Cunningham

Margaret has taught many Biology and Environmental Science courses and has Master's degrees in Environmental Science and Education.

Over the years many significant agricultural changes have occurred in order to supply enough food for the growing human population. In this lesson, we will explore the Green Revolution and investigate the benefits and issues associated with this period.

What Is the Green Revolution?

Throughout history there have been many revolutions that have occurred and changed human lives, such as the American Revolution and the Industrial Revolution. In the mid- and late-20th century a revolution occurred that dramatically changed the field of agriculture, and this revolution was known as the Green Revolution.

The Green Revolution was a period when the productivity of global agriculture increased drastically as a result of new advances. During this time period, new chemical fertilizers and synthetic herbicides and pesticides were created. The chemical fertilizers made it possible to supply crops with extra nutrients and, therefore, increase yield. The newly developed synthetic herbicides and pesticides controlled weeds, deterred or kill insects, and prevented diseases, which also resulted in higher productivity.

In addition to the chemical advances utilized during this time period, high-yield crops were also developed and introduced. High-yield crops are crops that are specifically designed to produce more overall yield. A method known as multiple cropping was also implemented during the Green Revolution and lead to higher productivity. Multiple cropping is when a field is used to grow two or more crops throughout the year, so that the field constantly has something growing on it. These new farming techniques and advances in agricultural technology were utilized by farmers all over the world, and when combined, intensified the results of the Green Revolution.

Benefits of the Green Revolution

As a result of the Green Revolution and the introduction of chemical fertilizers, synthetic herbicides and pesticides, high-yield crops, and the method of multiple cropping, the agricultural industry was able to produce much larger quantities of food. This increase in productivity made it possible to feed the growing human population.

One person who is famous for his involvement in the Green Revolution is the scientist Norman Borlaug. In the 1940s, Norman Borlaug developed a strain of wheat that could resist diseases, was short, which reduced damage by wind, and could produce large seed heads and high yields. He introduced this variety of wheat in Mexico and within twenty years the production of wheat had tripled. This allowed for the production of more food for people in Mexico and also made it possible for Mexico to export their wheat and sell it in other countries. Norman Borlaug helped introduce this high-yield variety of wheat to other countries in need of increased food production, and he eventually won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work with developing high-yield crops and for helping prevent starvation in many developing countries.

In addition to producing larger quantities of food, the Green Revolution was also beneficial because it made it possible to grow more crops on roughly the same amount of land with a similar amount of effort. This reduced production costs and also resulted in cheaper prices for food in the market.

The ability to grow more food on the same amount of land was also beneficial to the environment because it meant that less forest or natural land needed to be converted to farmland to produce more food. This is demonstrated by the fact that from 1961 to 2008, as the human population increased by 100% and the production of food rose by 150%, the amount of forests and natural land converted to farm only increased by 10%. The natural land that is currently not needed for agricultural land is safe for the time being, and can be utilized by animals and plants for their natural habitat.

Issues with the Green Revolution

Although the Green Revolution had several benefits, there were also some issues associated with this period that affected both the environment and society. The use of chemical fertilizers and synthetic herbicides and pesticides dramatically influenced the environment by increasing pollution and erosion. The new materials added to the soil and plants polluted the soil and water systems around the fields. The pollution of the water exposed people and the environment downstream to the chemicals being used in the farm fields. The pollution of the soil resulted in lower soil quality, which increased the risk of erosion of the topsoil.

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