Farms of the future — High rise barns and plastic domed fields?
Farmers of the not-too-distant future may have as much need for off-hour exercise as their city cousins. The farmer’s job may be as sedentary as that of the urban white collar worker, according to the latest projections on what farming will be like by the year 2000.
A panel of university, industry and other agriculture experts has been assembled and their predictions are startling.
If the world survives population explosions, they say, the year 2000 will see tractors running without visible operators, carrot tops and pea pods will be turned into milk to supplement real milk supplies, and prize milk cows will produce as many as 1000 offspring.
Other predictions foresee plastic domes covering acres of cropland and corn plants that look like small pine trees with cobs of corn growing at the top of the stalks.
The projection of agriculture is part of a study conducted and led by the experts and sponsored by Ford Motor Company’s US tractor and implement operations department. Portions of the study were released last Sunday.
“The efficient farmer of the year 2000 is a super breed of farmer, with super skills and super tools,” says the report. “The heart of his operation will be a control center equipped with a wide array of electronic wizardry to help him produce crops two to five times as abundant as today.”
The unmanned tractors would be controlled by computer tapes, buried wires or sensing devices. Their courses would be plotted on units similar to airplane radar sets and set up in the agricultural center’s headquarters.
Crops and livestock predictions
The experts predicted that cows will quadruple their milk production by the year 2000.
Today’s average cow becomes a mother only about 10 times during her lifetime. In the future, fertilized eggs will be transplanted from superior cows into common incubator cows, allowing the superior animal to mother as many as 1000 calves during her life.
Plant growth will be automatically recorded so that the farmer can provide proper light, water and nutrients, just by turning a dial. The dial will regulate influences on growth within a huge plastic or glass dome covering 10 acres or more.
The Ford report predicts that new machinery will include huge four or six-wheel drive tractors with cabs that have air conditioning, food warmers, coffee makers, refrigerators, television and sinks. It is assumed that at least some tractors will have to be steered by humans.
Other predictions by the panel call for “chain-reaction” machines which harvest one crop and plant another right behind, in one operation. A combination hovercraft-helicopter will be used for spraying.
The report also projects staggering crop yields: Three hundred bushels of wheat per acre, compared to today’s 27; 175 bushels of soybeans, compared to today’s 25; 30 tons of forage compared with three; 30000 pounds of milk per cow per year, compared with 8000, and beef cattle which grow to 1000 pounds at 10 months of age, compared with 750 today.
Current trends continuing
Based on the consensus of today’s leading world farm experts, the report estimated that if present trends continue for the next 30 years, the world population will increase by as much as it has in the past million years to more than six billion.
John A Banning, general operations manager of Ford’s tractor and implement division, said that the public presentation part of the report only partly covered all of the experts findings.
He explained that some of the items investigators covered, but not used in the public report, included such subjects as roles to be played by the government and land grant universities in developments of the agricultural future.
Among studies to be made are the possibility of using solar energy for power, the use of sewage for fertilizer, desalination of sea water and new food processing methods.
Ford’s study, headed by Prof Carl Hall, chairman of agricultural engineering at the University of Michigan, and Prof John Harris, an associate professor of economics at the same school, represents a trend being set by many big businesses and educational institutions in the United States. University of Wisconsin agricultural experts have made predictions similar to Ford’s report.
Last year, a large electric equipment firm predicted that farms of the future could be housed in a skyscraper complex which would include dairy and beef cattle, vegetables, cattle food and processing divisions on separate floors. The electricity experts said that such a farm could be built amid the forest of tall buildings in American cities such as Manhattan.
The Ford study concluded that, “All the evidence shows there is no need for hunger in the world tomorrow. But we must gear immediately for the gigantic job ahead. Zero hour is now!”