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Office of Technology Assessment
Congressional Board of the 99th Congress
TED STEVENS, Alaska, Chairman MORRIS K. UDALL, Arizona, Vice Chairman
ORRIN G. HATCH GEORGE E. BROWN, JR.
CHARLES McC. MATHIAS, JR. JOHN D. DINGELL
EDWARD M. KENNEDY CLARENCE E. MILLER
ERNEST F. HOLLINGS COOPER EVANS
South Carolina Iowa
CLAIBORNE PELL DON SUNDQUIST
Rhode Island Tennessee
JOHN H. GIBBONS
WILLIAM J. PERRY, Chairman CLAIRE T. DEDRICK MICHEL T. HALBOUTY
H&Q Technology Partners California Land Commission Michel T. Halbouty Energy Co.
DAVID S. POTTER, Vice Chairman JAMES C. FLETCHER CARL N. HODGES
General Motors Corp. (Ret.) University of Pittsburgh University of Arizona
EARL BEISTLINE S. DAVID FREEMAN RACHEL McCULLOCH
Consultant Lower Colorado River Authority University of Wisconsin
CHARLES A. BOWSHER JOSEPH E. ROSS LEWIS THOMAS
General Accounting Office Acting Director Memorial Sloan-Kettering
Congressional Research Service Cancer Center
JOHN H. GIBBONS
The Technology Assessment Board approves the release of this report. The views expressed in this report are not necessarily those of the Board, OTA Advisory Council, or individual members thereof.
Technology, Public Policy
Changing Structure of American Agriculture
CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES
s 4 Office of Technology Assessment
Washington, D.C. 20510
U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture, OTA-F-285 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, March 1986).
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 85-600632
For sale by the Superintendent of Documents
U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402
American agriculture is undergoing significant change and stress. Much of the recent change has been attributed to the financial farm crisis caused mainly by declining agricultural exports. However, underlying these financial difficulties are strong technological and structural forces which will cause further changes and adjustments in American agriculture for the remainder of this century.
Congress, concerned about the nature of these adjustments, requested the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) to analyze the underlying technological, structural, and political forces which impact American agriculture and to determine the industry's probable future direction. Committees requesting the study include: the Senate Committee on Agriculture, the Senate Small Business Committee (the Subcommittee on the Family Farm), the joint Economic Committee, the House Committee on Science and Technology, and the House Committee on Agriculture (the Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry; the Subcommittee on Department Operations, Research, and Foreign Agriculture; and the Subcommittee on Forests, Family Farms, and Energy).
In the course of preparing this report, an interim report entitled A Special Report for the 1985 Farm Bill was transmitted to the requesting committees for their use during the debates and the writing of the Food Security Act of 1985 (1985 Farm Bill). The special report focused on assessment findings that were particularly relevant for issues debated in that legislation. This report addresses the longer run issues that technology and certain other factors will have on American agriculture during the remainder of this century. It focuses on the relationship of technology to: agricultural production, structural change, rural communities, environment and natural resource base, finance and credit, research and extension, and public policy. The assessment identifies many benefits that new technologies will create, but these benefits will also exact substantial costs in potential adjustment problems. This report is a first step toward understanding these interrelated problems and identifying policies to ameliorate them.
OTA greatly appreciates the contribution of the advisory panel, workgroups, workshop participants, authors of the technical background papers, and the many other advisors and reviewers who assisted OTA from the public and private sector. Their guidance and comments helped develop a comprehensive report. As with all OTA studies, however, the content of this report is the sole responsibility of OTA.
JOHN H. GIBBONS
Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture: Advisory Panel
Frank Baker Richard Harwood
Director, International Stockmen's School Program Officer Winrock International Livestock Research Winrock International
and Training Center Virginia
Arkansas Charles Kidd
James Bonnen Dean
Professor College of Engineering Science,
Department of Agricultural Economics Technology, and Agriculture
Michigan State University Florida A&M University
William Brown Robert Lanphier III
Chairman of the Board Chairman of the Board
Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc. DICKEY-john Corp.
Frederick Buttel Edward Legates
Associate Professor Dean, College of the Agriculture and
Department of Rural Sociology Life Sciences
Cornell University North Carolina State University
Willard Cochrane John Marvel*
Consultant President and General Manager
California Research Division
Jack Doyle Monsanto Agriculture Products Co.
Agricultural Resources Project Donella Meadows
Environmental Policy Institute Adjunct Professor
Washington, DC Resources Policy Center
Marcia Dudden Dartmouth College
Dudden Farms, Inc. Don Paarlberg
Walter Ehrhardt Indiana
Ehrhardt Farms Don Reeves
Maryland Consultant, Interreligious Taskforce on
Dean Gillette U.S. Food Policy
Harvey Mudd College Milo Schanzenbach
Claremont College Schanzenbach Farms
Roger Granados South Dakota
*Resigned May 1985.
Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture: OTA Project Staff
Roger C. Herdman, Assistant Director, OTA Health and Life Sciences Division Walter E. Parham, Food and Renewable Resources Program Manager Michael J. Phillips, Project Director Yao-chi Lu, Senior Analyst Robert C. Reining, Analyst Juliette Linzer,1 Research Assistant Kathryn M. Van Wyk, Editor and Writer Administrative Staff Patricia Durana2 and Beckie Erickson,3 Administrative Assistants Nellie Hammond, Secretary Carolyn Swann, Secretary
:Through May 1984.
2Through July 1985.
3After July 1985.
1. Summary...................................................... 3
Part I: The Emerging Technologies
2. Emerging Technologies for Agriculture ............................ 27
3. Impacts of Emerging Technologies on Agricultural Production .........75
Part 11: The Changing Structure of American Agriculture
4. Dynamic Structure of Agriculture ................................91
5. Factors Contributing to Structural Change in Agriculture ............ 109
Part III: Analyses of Technology, Public Policy, and,
6. Emerging Technologies and Agricultural Structure .................. 123
7. Impacts of Agricultural Finance and Credit ........................137
8. Emerging Technologies, Public Policy, and Various Size Crop Farms ..163 9. Emerging Technologies,, Public Policy, and Various Size Dairy Farms .189 10. Impacts on the Environment and Natural Resources .................205
11. Impacts on Rural Communities ..................................221
12. Impacts on Agricultural Research and Extension ....................253
Part IV: Implications and Policy Options for Agriculture
13. Implications and Policy Options for Agriculture .................... 285
A: Animal and Plant Technology Workshop Methodology
and Procedures ...........................297
B: U.S. Regional Agricultural Sales by Sales Class and Commodity ....... 305 C: Participants in OTA Workshops ..................................310
D: Analysis of Size Economies and Comparative Advantage in Crop
Production in Various Areas of the United States ....................317
E: Methodology and Detailed Results of Microeconomic Impacts of Technology and Public Policy for Crop Farms ..........................333
F: Detailed Results of Microeconomic Impacts of Technology and
Public Policy on Dairy Farms ....................................348
G: Workgroups, Background Papers, and Acknowledgments ............. 358
Chapter I Summary
Agricultural Dependency on World Markets ........................... 4
Emerging Technologies for Agriculture ................................ 4
B iotech nology .................................................... 4
Inform ation Technology ........................................... 6
The Changing Structure of Agriculture ................................ 8
M ajor Findings .................................................... 10
Emerging Technologies and Future Agricultural Production ............ 10
Emerging Technologies and the Future Structure of Agriculture ........ 12 Impacts of Agricultural Finance and Credit .......................... 12
Emerging Technologies, Policy, and Survival of Various Size Farms ..... 14 Impacts on the Environment and Natural Resources .................. 15
Impacts on Rural Communities ..................................... 16
Impacts on Agricultural Research and Extension ..................... 18
Im plications and Policy Options ...................................... 20
The Issue of Farm Structure ....................................... 20
Required Policy Adjustm ents ....................................... 21
Sum m ary Conclusions .............................................. 25
Table No. Page
1-1. Distribution of Farm Sizes, Percent of Cash Receipts, Percent of Farm
Income, and Farm and Off-Farm Income by Sales Class, 1982 ........ 8 1-2. Most Likely Projection of Total Number of U.S. Farms in Year 2000,
by Sales C lass .................................................. 9
1-3. Impact of Emerging Technology on Animal Production Efficiency
in Y ear 200 .................................................... 10
1-4 Impact of Emerging Technology on Crop Yields in Year 2000 ........ 11 1-5. Projections of M ajor Crop Production ............................. 1.1
1-6. Comparison of Commodities With Current Economies of Size and
Future Technological Gains ...................................... 14
Over the next 15 years, American farmers will influencing change in the structure of agriculbe offered an extensive array of new biotech- ture. Although technology was found to be an nologies and information technologies that important force in such change, it is only one could revolutionize animal and plant produc- of several such forces. Public policy, institution. The adoption of these technologies will be tions, and economics have had and will concritical for shoring up the United States' lag- tinue to have important roles in shaping agriculging ability to compete in the international mar- ture. OTA analyzed the relationships between ketplace. Indeed, 83 percent of the estimated all these factors, focusing on the 150 produc1.8-percent annual increase in agricultural pro- tion technologies that are likely to be available duction needed to meet world agricultural de- commercially over the next 15 years. The study mand by year 2000 must come from increases results are presented in this report in four parts. in agricultural yields, yields that can only be Part I identifies and analyzes the productive possible through the development and adoption
of emerging technologies. capacity of those emerging technologies that
will help shape and define American agriculYet if current agricultural policies remain in ture to the year 2000. Chapters 2 and 3 describe force, this new biotechnology and information the emerging technologies, discuss how they technology era will also generate marked changes will be used in agriculture, and analyze the imin the structure of the agricultural sector and pact these technologies will have on animal and of the rural communities that support farming. plant agriculture. Some of these changes are'already evident:
Farming is becoming more centralized, more Part II traces the historical changes in agrivertically integrated. Large farms, though small cultural structure. It provides a perspective for in number, now produce most of this country's analyzing technology's distributional impacts agricultural output. Operators of small and on agricultural structure by surveying the charmoderate-size farms, the so-called backbone of acteristics of that structure and the factors that American agriculture, are becoming increas- affect it. ingly less able to compete, partly because they
lack access to the information and finances nec- How the emerging technologies, the policies, essary for adopting the new technologies effec- and structural change relate to one another is tively. Many such farmers must relocate, change the subject of chapters 6 through 12 in part III. to other kinds of farming, or give up farming The chapters analyze the results of this relationaltogether. The disappearance of these farm ship on: 1) future structure, 2) agricultural fioperations is causing repercussions for other nance and credit, 3) survivability of crop and businesses in the rural community and for the dairy farms of various sizes, 4) environment, labor pool in general, which must absorb all 5) rural communities, and 6) agricultural rethose whose livelihood once depended on agri- search and extension. cultural production. Part IV draws the implications of the analyThis report is the first step toward understand- sis for policyrnakers. It shows the direction in ing the social and economic costs, as well as which agriculture is headed and concludes with the benefits, of the emerging technologies for congressional policy options for improving the U.S. agriculture. It analyzes the dynamic forces picture of U.S. agriculture.
4 Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture
AGRICULTURAL DEPENDENCY ON WORLD MARKETS
The financial condition of many American 5. price support levels that permit other counfarmers in the 1980s has significantly deterio- tries to undersell the United States. rated during a long period of surpluses. The de- Although all of the factors are important, agridine in agricultural exports is largely respon- cultural experts are beginning to focus on the sible for this situation. And although exports lower costs of production in other countries as are not this report's central focus, the future of thlogerpimyfaorn'hedcnef Uagrn uofthisl report omlrei h ak this country's competitiveness. The United
groud ofthi reprt.States faces strong competition in wheat, corn,
Agricultural exports have historically been re- rice, soybeans, and cotton. Each of these maj or sponsible for lessening the negative trade bal- export commodities has been produced by at ance caused primarily by the manufacturing least one country at or below the U.S. average and energy sectors. This importance of agricul- production costs since 1981. Estimates suggest ture to the balance of trade has increased sig- that any historic cost advantage that the United nificantly over the past 30 years. However, the States may have enjoyed in these commodities past several years have witnessed a drop both is now tenuous. in the value of U.S. agricultural exports and in Future exports will depend on the ability of agriculture's share of total U.S. exports. American farmersto use newtechnology to proSeveral key factors are causally related to re- duce commodities more efficiently than comcent declines in U.S. agriculture: peting countries can. If the United States can1. aweakworl ecoomynot effectively compete with other countries in
2. the strong value of the dollar, the export market, reduced exports will mag3. the enhanced competitiveness of other nify the structural change and adjustment that
countries, U.S. farmers and the rural communities will face
4. an increase in trade agreements, and because of technological change.
EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES FOR AGRICULTURE
Technology has made U.S. agriculture one of more profound than those experienced from eithe world's most productive and competitive ther the mechanical or chemical eras. industries. Americans have already witnessed
the dramatic results of two major technologi- Below is a brief summary of the technologies
cal rasin gricltue. he echaica er of examined for this study. A more complete de1920 to 1950 allowed farmers to make the tran- sncipt te 152eholge.anbon sition from horsepower to mechanical power incatr2 and greatly increased the productive capacity
of U.S. agriculture. The chemical era of 1950Bitcnlg to 1980 further increased agricultural produc-Bothnlg tivity by increasing the farmers' ability to con- Biotechnology, broadly defined, includes any trol pests and disease and by increasing the use technique that uses living organisms or procof chemical fertilizers. Now, in the 1980s, Amer- esses to make or modify products, to improve ican agriculture is being propelled by a new ma- plants or animals, or to develop micro-orgajor technological thrust-the biotechnology and nisms for specific uses. It focuses on two powerinformation technology era. The effects of this ful molecular genetic techniques: recombinant new era on agricultural productivity may be deoxyribonucleic acid (rDNA) and cell fusion
Ch. 1-Summary 5
technologies. Using these techniques scientists Gene Insertion.-A new technique arising can visualize the gene-to isolate, clone, and from the convergence of gene and embryo mastudy the structure of the gene and the gene's nipulations promises to permit genes for new relationships to the processes of living things. traits to be inserted into the reproductive cells Such knowledge and skills will give scientists of livestock and poultry, providing major oppormuch greater control over biological systems, tunities to improve animal health and producleading to significant improvements in the pro- tivity. Unlike the genetically engineered horduction of plants and animals. mones discussed above, which cannot affect
future generations, gene insertion will allow fuAnimal Agriculture ture animals to be endowed permanently with
In niml aricltue, dvacesinprotein traits of other animals. In this technique, genes prndctanima agrniulte, adnesby in ns for a desired trait, such as disease resistance peroducion, gen ajoe ininean eryoctrn- or growth, are injected directly into either of fe will payamaj rolction.icesn fiin the two pronuclei of a fertilized egg. On fusion
ciesin nima prducton.of the pronuclei, the guest genes become part Production of Protein.-One major thrust of of all the cells of the developing animal, and the biotechnology in animals is the mass produc- traits they determine are transmitted to succeedtion in micro-organisms of protein-like pharma- ing generations. ceuticals, including a number of hormones, en- EmroTase. mbytanfwhc
zyme, ativtingfacors amio aids andfee closely related to gene insertion, involves artisupplements. Previously, these biological prod- ficilyisriaigasprouae oo
ucts could be obtained only from animal and cnialy inemaing ah suroultgedbrdoo
huma orans nd ereeithr uavaiabl in nonsurgically for implantation in surrogate sufficient amounts or were too costly. mothers which then carry them to term. Prior
Some of these biological products can be used to implantation, the embryos can be treated in for detection, prevention, and treatment of in- a number of special ways. They can be sexed, fectious and genetic diseases; some can be used split (generally to make twins), fused with emto increase animal production efficiency. One bryos of other animal species (to make chimeric of the applications of these new pharmaceuti- animals or to permit the heterologous species cals is the injection of growth hormones into to carry the embryo to term), or frozen in liquid animals to increase production efficiency. For nitrogen for storage. Freezing is of great pracexample, several firms are developing a geneti- tical importance because it allows embryos to cally engineered bovine growth hormone to be stored until the estrus of the intended farm stimulate lactation in cows. Trial results indi- animal is in synchrony with that of the donor. cate that cows treated with the hormone in- Embryos used for gene insertions must be in crease milk production by 20 to 30 percent, with the single-cell stage, having pronuclei that can only a modest increase in feed intake. Commer- be injected with cloned foreign genes. The genes cial introduction of the new hormone awaits likely to be inserted into cattle may be those for approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Adminis- growth hormones, prolactins (lactation stimutration, which is expected to approve the hor- lators), digestive enzymes, and interferons, mone within the next 3 years. thereby providing both growth and enhanced
In the area of disease prevention and treat- resistance to diseases. ment, an immunological product currently ex- Even though less than 1 percent of U.S. cattle ists on the market that prevents "scours" in are involved in embryo transfers, the obvious calves. In addition, vaccines producedby rDNA
methods are currently being tested for foot-and- 'An animal that has been injected with a hormone to stimulate mouth disease, swine dysentery and, most re- the production of more than the normal number of eggs per ovucently, coccidiosis in poultry. lation.
6 a Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture
benefits of this technology will push this per- propagation of several vegetable, ornamental, centage upward rapidly, particularly as the costs and tree species. These methods can provide of the procedure decrease. Recently, a genet- large numbers of genetically identical, diseaseically superior Holstein cow and her 14 embryos free plants that often exhibit superior growth were purchased for $1.3 million, and more uniformity over plants conventionally seed-grown. Such technology holds promPlant Agriculture ise for breeding in important forest species
The application of biotechnologies in plant whose long sexual cycles reduce the impact of agriculture could modify crops so that they traditional breeding approaches. Somatic emwould make more nutritious protein, resist in- bryoS2 produced in large quantities by cell culsect an diease grw i hash evirnmets, ture methods can be encapsulated to create arand provide their own nitrogen fertilizer. While cticrop especiaes neprpgtino the immediate impacts will be greater for ani- ceticrpsce. mal agriculture, the long-term impacts of bio- Genetic Modification.-Plant genetic engitechnology may be substantially greater for neering is the least established of the various plant agriculture. The potential applications of biotechnologies used in crop improvement, but biotechnology on plant agriculture include mi- the most likely to have a major impact. Using crobial inoculums, plant propagation, and ge- gene transfer techniques, it is possible to intronetic modification. duce DNA from one plant into another plant,
Microbial Inocula.-Rhizobium seed inocuila regardless of normal species and sexual barriers. already are used widely to improve the nitro- For example, it is possible to introduce storagegen fixation of certain legumes. Extensive study protein genes from French bean plants into of the structure and regulation of the genes in- tobacco plants and to introduce genes that envolved in bacterial nitrogen fixation will likely code photosynthetic proteins in pea plants into lead to development of improved inocula. More- petunia plants. over, research on other plant-colonizing mi- Transformation technology also allows introcrobes has led to a clearer understanding of the duction of DNA coding sequences from virturole of these microbes in plant nutrition, growth ally any source into plants, providing those sestimulation, and disease prevention, and the quences are engineered with the appropriate possibility exists for the modification and use plant-gene regulatory signals. Several bacterial of these microbes as seed inocula. genes have now been modified and shown to
Monsanto has announced plans to field test function in plants. By eliminating sexual bargenetically engineered soil bacteria that pro- riers to gene transfer, genetic engineering will duce a naturally occurring insecticide poten- greatly increase a plant's genetic diversity. tially capable of protecting plant roots against *nfornsati@, Technology soil-dwelling insects. The company developed
a genetic engineering technique that inserts into Animal Agriculture soil bacteria a gene from a micro-organism
known as Bacillus thuringiensis, a micro-orga- information technology is the use of computnism that has been registered as an insecticide er- and electronic-based technologies for the for more than two decades. Plant seeds could automated collection, manipulation, and procbe coated with these bacteria before planting. essing of information for control and manageAs the plants grow, the bacteria would remain ment of agricultural production and marketing. in the soil near the plant roots, generating an The most significant changes in future livestock insect toxin that protects the plants. production resulting from information technolPlant Propagation.-Cell culture methods for ogy will come from the integration of computers regeneration of intact plants from single cells 2Embryos produced from body cells rather than reproductive or tissue explants are now used routinely for cells.
Ch. 1-Summary 7
and electronics into modern livestock produc- plan for improved efficiency in disease control tion systems that will help make the farmer a programs. better manager. Animal identification, animal
reproduction, and disease control and preven- Plant Agriculture tion are some promising areas for information
technology in livestock production. Pest Management.-Infqrmation technology
Electronic Animal Identification.-Positiv is already being used in plant agriculture for idenifiatin o anmalsis ecesar iniv~ the management of insects and mites. Design
idetiicaio ofanmal i neesaryinal improvements and availability of computer facets of management, including recordkeep- hardware and software will produce marked ing, individualized feed control, genetic im- changes in insect and mite management. provement, and disease control. Research on
identification systems for animals has been in Availability at the farm level of microcomprogress for some years. Soon, all farm animals puters, equipped with appropriate software and will be "tagged" shortly after birth by an elec- having access to larger centralized databases, tronic device, called a transponder, that lasts will accelerate transfer of information and fathe life of the animal. For example, some dairy cilitate pest management decisionmaking. The cows now wear a transponder in the ear or on advantages, simply in terms of information stora neck chain. A feed-dispensing device identi- age and retrieval, will be of major importance. fies the animal by the transponder's signal and The ready storage of and access to current and provides an appropriate amount of feed for the historical information on pest biology, incianimal. dence, and abundance; pesticide use; cropping
Reprducion-Thelarestpotetia us of histories; weather; and the like at the regional,
faromio.h lares potetia usel ofve falfcltaeslc
electronic devices in livestock production will rmond evten frpiedlvlwfaitate sengeen ec-tan be in the area of reproduction and genetic im-tio the andipprptlaement unpet ande provement. An inexpensive estrus detection de- mth daegn e nd ipe tat ionot et.aae vice will allow: 1) animals to be rebred faster mn taeisfrta nt after weaning; 2) animals that did not breed to Current software has already greatly improved be culled from the herd, saving on feeding and the efficiency and accuracy with which pest breeding space; 3) time to be saved because management decisions can be made and implebreeding can be done faster; and 4) easier em- mented. Much effort is being devoted to the bryo transplants because of improved estrus de- development of new software and the improvetection. ment of existing software. The resultant prodDisease Control and Prevention.-Herd re- ucts, in conjunction with the rapid advances
ordkepig sstes fo anmalheath reca- being made in computer hardware, will provide ready being developed and refined in the dairy, a powerful force that will lead to dramatic swine, and poultry industries. These record- changes in the implementation of integrated keeping systems will eventually be linked with pest management (IPM) and to increases in the the animal identification systems discussed level of sophistication of IPM. above. Examples of the types of information that Irrigation Control Systems.-B ecause irrigacan be recorded for each animal include pro- tion decisions are complex and require relativeduction records, feed consumption, vaccination ly large amounts of information, a microcomprofiles, breeding records, conception dates, puter-based irrigation monitoring and control number of offspring, listing and dates of dis- system is especially useful in areas with soils eases, and costs of medicines for treatment or having variable percolation and retention rates, prevention of disease. Bringing all this infor- where rainfall is especially variable, or where mation together will allow the veterinarian and the salinity of irrigation water changes unprea manager of the livestock enterprise to analyze dictably. In this system, a network of sensors, quickly a health profile for each animal and to with radio links to the central processor, is
8 @ Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture
buried in irrigated fields. Additional sensors of chemical slurries and to changes in tractor may include weather station sensors to estimate wheel slip, grading, and drawbar tension. Ecocrop stress and evaporation rates, salinity sen- nomic and environmental costs are associated sors, and runoff sensors. The central proces- with applications of too little or too much chemsor uses such information to allocate water auto- icals. Control of application rate depends on the matically according to crop needs in each field, ability to estimate rate of flow through the chemsubject to considerations of cost, leaching re- ical sprayer and on the vehicle's speed over the quirements, and availability of water. .field. The speed indicated by sensors in the tracRada, Snsos, ad Cmpuers.Thrugh tor drivetrain is usually greater than the actual
Rh se adar, ensors, and computersthough- speed over the ground, owing to slippage of the rt ause of adriensrecds, and copueratenor drive wheels. The amount of slippage can be grhremut oetzr estcs a ndiet plants monitored by a doppler radar device that comigrwtn ruator slicae appid toemplantslby pares actual speed to indicated speed in the iThegcorat trator splipgeand chemsicl ow drivetrain. When all this information is availtural chemicals is usually within a narrow range prese, toodelier cthen orrect mt ofra che for a given crop and field. However, applica- icassur ato aryigr spee andec amount of wheel tion rates are often variable from area to area islip. yigseesadamut o he
within a field, owing to changes in the flow rate slp
THE CHANGING STRUCTURE OF AGRICULTURE
Agriculture is entering a new technological usefully classified into five categories of gross era at a time when the character of agriculture sales, as shown in table 1-1. is changing rapidly. Emerging biotechnologies Saladpr-iefrsgnrlyd o
and information technologies will be introduced Smvia aind fiarttm faurms gencoeral o ti within a socioeconomic structure that has un- oprode aos sinficathsre finsomto their aendetpomst continueabto change through-0 yar primary net income from off-farm sources.
and hatproise toconinu tochage hrogh- However, this segment is highly diverse. This out the remainder of this century. class of farms is operated either by subsistence
One of the best ways to look at changes in the farmers or by individuals who use the farm as economic structure of U.S. agriculture is in either a tax shelter or a source of recreation.
terms of value of production as measured by Moderate-size farms cover the lower end of
gross sales per year. In this way farms can be the range in which the farm is large enough to
Table 1.-1.- Distribution of Farm Sizes, Percent of Cash Receipts, Percent of Farm Income, and Farm and Off-Farm income per Farm by Sales Class, 1982
Percent Percent of Percent of Average Average Average Value of farm Number of all total cash net farm net farm off-farm total Sales class products sold of farms farms receipts income income income income
Small ..... < $20,000 1,355,344 60.6 5.5 -3.8 (615) 20,505 19,890
Part-time .......$20,000-$99,000 581,576 25.9 21.8 5.4 998 13,220 14,218
Moderate ...$100,000-$199,000 180,689 8.1 19.1 14.6 17,810 11,428 29,238
Large .........$200,000-$499,000 93,891 4.2 21.0 20.4 48,095 12,834 60,929
Very large ... !$500,000 27,800 1.2 32.5 63.5 504,832 24,317 529,149
All farms ...2,239,300 100 100 100 $9,976 $17,601 $27,578
SOURCE: Compiled from Economic Indicators of the Farm Sector;, income and Balance Sheet Statistics, 1983, USDA Economic Research Service, 1984, table 59, using
farm number and caah receipts distribution from the 1982 Census of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 1984.
Ch. 1-Summary 9
be the primary source of income. However, most of net farm income. The agricultural sector can families with farms in this range also rely on be described as a bipolar, or dual sector: As the off-farm income. moderate-size farm disappears, it leaves small
Large and very large farms include a diverse and part-time farms clustered at one end of the range of farms. The great majority of these farms farming spectrum and large farms clustered at are family owned and operated. Most require the other, in terms of their importance to agrione or more full-time operators, and many de- culture. pend on hired labor full time. The degree of con- If present trends continue to the end of this tracting (monitoring and controlling production century, the total number of farms will continue to produce a specified quantity of homogene- to decline from 2.2 million in 1982 to 1.2 milous products for a buyer) and vertical integra- lion in 2000 (table 1-2). The number of small and tion is much higher in this class. part-time farms will continue to decline, but will
To appreciate how agriculture has changed still make up about 80 percent of total farms. just between 1969 and 1982, consider the fol- The large and very large farms will increase sublowing: stantially in number. Approximately 50,000 of
these largest farms will account for 75 percent
" The number of small farms declined 39 per- of the agricultural production by year 2000. The
cent, while the number of very large farms trend toward concentration of agricultural reincreased by 100 percent. sources into fewer but larger farms will con" The share of cash receipts from very large tinue, although the degree of concentration will
farms increased slightly, from 29 to 33 per- vary by region and commodity.
cent, while cash receipts declined from 40 Moderate-size farms will decline in number to 25 percent for small and part-time farms. and in proportion of total farms, have a small
" The share of net farm income declined Sig- share of the market and a declining share of net
nificantly (from 36 to 5 percent) for small farm income. These farms comprise most of the and part-time farms, and increased from farms that depend on agriculture for the ma36 to 64 percent for very large farms. jority of their income. Traditionally, the modThese trends indicate that small and part-time erate-size farm has been viewed as the backbone farms no longer can depend on the farm to pro- of American agriculture. These farms are failvide an adequate income. Large-scale farms ing in their efforts to compete for their historidominate agriculture. Moderate-size farms have cal share of farm income. a small share of the market and a stagnant share
Table 1-2.-Most Likely Projection of Total Number of U.S. Farms in Year 2000, by Sales Class
of farms Percent of of farms Percent of
Sales class (thousands) all farms (thousands) all farms
Small and part-time ......... 1,936.9 86.0 1,000.2 80.0
Moderate .................. 180.7 10.0 75.0 6.0
Large and very large ........ 121.7 4.0 175.0 14.0
Total ................... 2,239.3 100.0 1,250.2 100.0
SOURCE: Office of Technology Assessment.
10 Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture
Emerging Technologies and Future Table 1-3.-Impact of Emerging Technology on Animal
Agricultural Production Production Efficiency in Year 2000
Like the eras that preceded it, the biotechnol- Actual likely growth ratea
ogy and information technology era will bring 1982 2000 (percent)
technologies that can significantly increase agri- Beef: cultural yields. The immediate impacts of these Pounds meat per lb feed ... 0.07 0.072 0.2
tecnolgis wllbe el fist n niml rodc- Calves per cow ............. 0.88 1.000 0.7
techoloieswil befel firt i anmalprouc- Dairy:
tion. Through embryo transfers, gene insertion, Pounds milk per lb feed ......0.99 1.03 0.2 growth hormones, and other genetic engineer- Milk per cow per year ing techniques, dairy cows will produce more (1,000 lb) ................ 12.30 24.70 3.9
milk per cow, and cattle, swine, sheep, and poul- Poultry: Pounds meat per lb feed .... 0.40 0.57 2.0
try will produce more meat per pound of feed. Eggs per layer per year ...243.00 275.00 0.7
Impats n pantprouctin wll akeloner, Swine:
Impct o pantprdutin illtaelngr, Pounds meat per lb feed .... 0.157 0.176 0.6 almost the remainder of the century. By that Pigs per sow per year ....14.400 17.400 1.1 time, however, technical advances will allow asome of these figures differ from those In table 2-2 of the first report from this some major crops to be altered genetically f or study, because actual 1982 figures were preliminary. disease and insect resistance, higher produc- SOURCE: Office of Technology Asseasment. tion of protein, and self-production of fertilizer likely conditions, milk production per cow is and herbicide. expected to increase from the 12,000 pounds
In both plant and animal production, informa- in 1982 to at least 24,000 pounds by 2000, an tion technologies will be widely used on farms annual growth rate of 3.9 percent. Applications to increase management efficiency. Introduc- of new technologies also will increase the feed ing to the marketplace these and the rest of the and reproductive efficiency of other farm animals. 150 emerging technologies forecasted in this Bcuedvlpeto itcnlg o
study raises questions about the effects these Benacau velopmeng boehnologyt for technologies will have on crop yield, livestock pantma agriculture, isull laggnibeicn that's tured efoodncy p rotonutv.ffcecnu from biotechnology will not be felt in plant agriturefoo proucton.culture before the turn of the century. DevelopMany people are concerned that the trends ment and adoption of the new technologies unof major crop yields are leveling off and that der the most likely conditions will, in the short the world may not be able to continue to pro- run, increase the rates of growth of major crop duce enough food to meet the demand of a grow- yields at about the level of historical rates of ing population. OTA analyses indicate that the growth (table 1-4). However, the impacts of these emerging technologies, if fully adopted, will pro- technologies will be substantially greater for duce significant beneficial impacts on the per- plant agriculture after 2000. formance of plant and animal agriculture. The Aycnlso bu h aac fgoa
most dramatic impacts will be felt first in the Anppy conclusion aboutite baance ofsuglobal dairy industry, where new genetically eni sbupleqniy and deadrquiety susmptins
neered pharmaceuticals (such as bovine growth oute the atityr an qut ofresourceswavailhormone and feed additives) and information able teoog iclture the fut.Lnd, actra management systems will soon be introduced fad teclgyrwillfbeute limiutigt faco-a commercially. New technologies adopted by the farnaegiuluesfuuepodciiy.scn dairy industry will increase milk production far cend beyond the 2.6-percent annual growth rate of Agricultural land that does not require irrithe past 20 years (table 1-3). Under OTA's most gation is becoming an increasingly limited re-
Ch. 1-Summary 11
Table 1-4.-Impact of Emerging Technology on next 20 years. This does not necessarily mean
Crop Yields in Year 2000 that the United States will be competitive or have
Annual the economic incentive to produce. It means
Actual Most likely growth ratea only that the United States will have the tech1982 2000 (percent) nology available to provide the production inCorn-bu/acre ....... 113 139 1.2 creases needed to export products for the rest
Cotton-lb/acre ...... 481 554 0.7 of this century.
Rice-bu/acre ........ 105 124 0.9 Under the most likely environment,3 the agSoybean-bu/acre .... 30 37 1.2 Underth rt in envionmof the agWheat-bu/acre ...... 36 45 1.3 gregate growth rate in production of these comaSome of these figures differ from those In table 2-2 of the first report from this modities, which includes inputs of additional study, because actual 1982 figures were preliminary, land resources and new technology, will be adeSOURCE: Office of Technology Assessment. quate to meet the 1.8 percent growth rate needed
to balance world supply and demand in 2000. source. In the next 20 years, out of a predicted Under the more-new-technology environment,4 1.8 percent annual increase in production to production could increase at 2 percent per year,
meet world demand, only 0.3 percent will come which would be more than enough to meet world
from an increase in the quantity of land used demand. This increased production could, howin production. The other 1.5 percent will have ever, point to a future of surplus production.
to come from increases in yields-mainly from On the other hand, under the less-new-technolnew technology. Thus, to a very large extent, ogy environment" the production of major crops
research that produces new technologies will in 2000 would drop to 1.6 percent per year, a
determine the future world supply/demand bal- growth rate that would not allow the United
ance and the amount of pressure placed on the States to meet world demand.
world's limited resources.
Table 1-5 shows the projections to year 2000 of increased production for some of the major U.S. commodities, based on the above yield pro- 3Assumes to year 2000: 1) a real rate of growth in research and
jections, land availability, world demand, public extension expenditures of 2 percent per year, and 2) the continupolicy, and other factors. OTA analyses indi- ation of all other forces that have shaped past development and
cate that with continuous inflow of new tech- adoption of technology.
4Assumes to year 2000: 1) a real rate of growth in research and nologies into the agricultural production sys- extension expenditures of 4 percent, and 2) all other factors more
tem, U.S. agriculture will be able not only to favorable than those of the most likely environment.
5Assumes to year 2000: 1) no real rate of growth in research meet domestic demand, but also to contribute and extension expenditures, and 2) all other factors less favorasignificantly to meeting world demand in the ble than those of the most likely environment.
Table 1.5.-Projections of Major Crop Production8
No-new-technology Most likely More-new-technology Crop Unit 1984 environment environment environment
Production ....... Billion bu 7.7 8.6 9.3 9.7
Growth rate ....... Percent 0.7 1.2 1.5
Production ....... Billion bu 1.9 3.0 3.2 3.3
Growth rate ....... Percent 3.1 3.4 3.6
Production ....... Billion bu 2.6 3.3 3.5 3.5
Growth rate ....... Percent 1.5 1.9 2.0
aThe projections shown in this table differ from those in table 2-3 of the first report from this study, because the previous
figures were preliminary.
SOURCE: Office of Technology Assessment.
12 Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture
Emerging Tedhnologies and the more contract livestock production. One examFuture Structure of Agriculture pie is the potential from these technologies for
modifying milk at the farm rather than at the
New technologies have historically had sig- processing plant. This technology holds promnificant impacts on structural change. New dis- ise for producing more highly unsaturated fats ease control technologies gave poultry and live- in milk. If adopted, it would entail close coordistock farmers unprecedented opportunities to nation at the producer/first-handler markets and specialize and vertically integrate. Improve- additional process control at the production ments in farm machinery fostered large-scale, level.
specalizd fam unts.The biological technologies will encourage Like their predecessors, the emerging technol- coordination in crop production, as well. Howogies examined in this study will make a con- ever, the magnitude of change in this area is siderable impact on farm structure, especially expected to be relatively less for crops than liveby 2000. Biotechnologies will have the greatest stock. Part of the reason is that biotechnologies impact because they will enable agricultural for livestock production are further advanced. production to become more centralized and ver- The biotechnology era is expected to encourage tically integrated. Although in the long run the closer vertical coordination, with a slight reducuse of new technologies will not increase the tion in market access as a consequence. This farmer's overall need for capital, there will be situation would subsequently lead to fewer but trade-offs: biotechnology will require less cap- larger farms. ital; information technology will require more. Thinomtntenlgesaexpcd
The new technologies will allow increased to reduce barriers to entry and to increase marcontrol over end-product characteristics, for ex- ket access without any significant change in verample less fat per unit of lean in meat animals tical coordination or control at the producer/ or a specific color characteristic in corn. This first-handler level-especially for crop agriculimplies that increased homogeneity within an ture. Information technologies hold the potenagricultural product may result and that there tial for significantly increasing the amount of will be a growing number of end products with information across markets. This impact would engineered characteristics. This would require be attributable to improved communication of less sorting or grading to achieve increased buyers' needs to production-level managers, homogeneity and a shift toward having more which should result in more equality between control over the production process so as to buyers and sellers. achieve homogeneity during production. The largest farms are expected to adopt the
An anticipated economic consequence of this greatest amount of the new technologies. Genincreased control over production is an increase erally, 70 percent or more of the largest farms in the practice of contracting. Contracting al- are expected to adopt some of the biotechnollows husbandry and cultural practices to be ogies and information technologies. This conmonitored and controlled closely during the pro- trasts with only 40 percent for moderate-size duction process. This greater process control farms and about 10 percent for the small farms. leads to uniform product differentiation. The economic advantages from the technologies
Biotechnologies will have relatively more im- are expected to accrue to early adopters, a large portant effects on resource concentration than proportion of which will probably be operators will other technological developments. Even of large farms. though mechanical technologies will continue
to be important, they are not expected to have Impacts of Agricultural
as important an impact on future structure. In Finanmce and Credit
particular, biotechnologies are expected to encourage closer coordination and greater proc- The severe financial stress of a large proporess control in livestock production, permitting tion of farmers and the recent regulatory and
Ch. 1-Summary s 13
competitive changes in financial markets have petence in using the new technologies, and on combined to change significantly the financial building human capital, where appropriate. In framework of farming. The farm of the future some cases-particularly for Farmers Home Adwill be treated financially like any other busi- minstration b orrowe rs-signific ant investness-it will have to demonstrate profitability ments in human capital, with related financing before a bank will finance its operation. Man- requirements, may accompany new technology aging a farm efficiently and profitably, which adoption. This is consistent with the more conwill necessitate keeping up-to-date technologi- servative responses by lenders to the agriculcally, will be the key to access to credit. tural stress conditions of the early 1980s. LendThe cost of credit, however, will be higher and ing institutions themselves, in turn, must have more volatile. Interest on loans may be varia- sufficient technical knowledge and expertise to ble rather than fixed. Moreover, given the con- evaluate these management and credit factors centration in the banking industry, decisions along with other sources of business and finanabout extending credit more likely will be made cial risks in agriculture. Finally, some forms of
at lrge cetralzedbaningheaduarersfar new technology involving large investments and atrgoe, centralzed banklicnteaqres fara e having long-run uncertain returns will probably cisions will thus be less influenced by the con- rl oeo qiycptlfrfnnig siderations of neighborly good will that fre- The changing regulatory and competitive quently shaded decisions of local farm banks. forces in financial markets, including the preferCongress will have to consider all these fac- ence for greater privatization of some credit intors because the availability of capital will con- stitutions, means that the cost of borrowing for tinue to be an important factor in agricultural agricultural producers will likely remain higher production in general and in the adoption of and more volatile than before 1980 times and agricultural technologies in particular. Read- will follow market interest rates much more ily available capital at reasonable rates and closely. Similarly, the continued geographic libterms, plus technologies that aid profitability, eralization of banking and the emergence of provide a favorable environment for technol- more complex financial systems mean that the ogy adoption. Emerging technologies, for the functions of marketing financial services, loan most part, will pass the test for economic feasi- servicing, and credit decisions will become bility. more distinct, with an increasing proportion of
credit control and loan authority occurring subThe financing consequences of new technol- regionally and with regional money centers beogies in agricultural production will probably ing located away from the rural areas. This will depend on the relationships between three im- continue to fragment and dichotomize the farmportant factors: 1) the financing characteristics credit market so that commercial-scale agriculof the new technologies, 2) the creditworthiness tural borrowers will be treated as part of a fiof individual borrowers, and 3) the changing nancial institution's commercial lending activforces in financial markets that affect the cost ities and small, part-time farmers will be treated and availability of financial capital. The financ- as part of consumer lending programs. ing characteristics suggest that most of the new
technologies should be financed largely with The competitive pressures on financial instishort- and intermediate-term loans that are part tutions and the risks involved will bring more of the normal financing procedures for agricul- emphasis on analyzing the profitability of vanitural businesses. However, the technical char- ous banking functions, including loan performacteristics of the technologies, together with the ance at the department level and individual cusfactors constituting the creditworthiness of in- tomer level. Innovative lenders will strive more dividual borrowers, suggest that increased em- vigorously to differentiate their loan products phasis in credit evaluations will be placed on and financial services, especially for more profthe farmers' management capacity, on their abil- itable borrowers, and will tailor financing proity to demonstrate appropriate technical com- grams more precisely to the specific needs of
14 Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture
creditworthy borrowers. In turn, however, to covered by farm policy. These economies moticompete for credit services these agricultural vate further concentration of resources. In addiborrowers must be highly skilled in the techni- tion, present farm policy, more than any other cal aspects of agricultural production and mar- policy tool, makes major impacts on farm size keting as well as in financial accounting, finan- and survival. Although very large farms can surcial management, and risk analysis. vive without these programs, moderate-size
In general, most forms of new technology in farms depend on them for their survival. agricultural production should meet the tests This study finds that substantial economies of both economic and financial feasibility, al- of size exist for several major commodities (table though the structural characteristics of the 1-6). The commodities include dairy, corn, cotadopting farm units will continue to evolve in ton, wheat, and soybeans. With the exception response to managerial, economic, and market of corn, economies of size do not exist uniformly factors. The structural consequences of these in all the production areas studied for these comfactors are severalfold: modities. Table 1-6 shows the areas in which
1. a continuing push toward larger commer- economies of size do exist. It should be noted
cial-scale farm businesses, with greater skills that the analysis considered only technical econin all aspects of business management; omies of size. If it had also included pecuniary 2. continuing evolution in the methods of en- economies, additional production areas would try into agriculture by young or new farm- have been found to have economies of size.
ers, with greater emphasis on management Table 1-6 also shows commodities in which skills and resource control and less empha- there will be significant gains in yield based on sis on land ownership; emerging technologies. All of the commodity
3. the continuing development of a market- areas except rice will experience substantial ing systems approach toward financing gains in yield as well as significant economies agriculture, with more sophisticated skills of size. (No economies of size were found for
in marketing analysis by farmers and higher degrees of coordination with commodity
and resource markets;
4. more formal management of financial leverage and credit by farmers, with greater Table 1-6.-Comparlson of Commodities With Current diversity of funding sources by farmers and Economies of Size and Future Technological Gains
better developed markets for obtaining outside equity capital; Greatest yield increases
5. further development in financial leasing Current economies of size for the future and greater stability in leasing arrange- (in descending order) (in descending order) Dairy Dairy
ments for real estate and other assets; and Arizona
6. more complex business arrangements in California Wheat
production agriculture that accommodate New Mexico
various ways to package effectively debt Illinois
and equity financing, leasing, management, Indiana Corn
accounting, and legal services for the fu- Iowa
ture farm business. Nebraska Rice
Emerging Technologies, Policy, and Texas
Survival of Various Size Farms Wheat
The size and, therefore, the survival of farms Montana Soybeans
is affected by several factors. Clearly, there are Iowa economies of size in many commodity areas SOURCE: Office of Technology Assessment.
Ch. 1-Summary & 15
rice.) Dairy, in particular, leads all commodi- Currently the financial position of many ties in economies of size and production in- farmers is under severe stress. The situation is creases from new technologies. These forces serious and may not improve for some time. will combine to shift over time the comparative Two alternatives most discussed by policyadvantage in dairy production from the smaller makers are interest subsidy and debt restrucdairies in the Great Lake States and Northeast turing programs. OTA finds that restructuring to the larger dairies in the Southwest and West. debt for highly leveraged farms does not apOverall, the combination of future yield in- preciably increase their probability for survival. creases from new technology and current econ- The interest rate subsidy substantially increases average net income more than debt restructuromies of size in these commodities means that ing. It is the more effective strategy to ease fithere will be substantial incentives for farms nancial stress. In addition, large farms with high to grow in size. These powerful forces will con- debts are not as dependent on these financial tinue, and may even speed up resource concen- programs for survival as moderate farms are. tration in U.S. agriculture.
This study finds that farm programs, which Impacts on the Environment and include Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC)
purchases and price and income supports, have Natural Resources
major impacts on rates of growth in farm size, In general, with a few notable exceptions, wealth, and incomes of commercial farmers. most emerging technologies are expected to reLarge farms increase their net worth signifi- duce substantially the land and water requirecantly more than moderate-size farms under ments for meeting future agricultural needs. current farm programs and large farms account Consequently, these technologies are expected for a significantly large share of farm program to reduce certain environmental problems assopayments. In particular, price supports provide ciated with the use of land and water. The techmost of the wealth and growth benefits to large nologies are thought to have beneficial effects farms. relative to soil erosion, to reduce threats to wildRemoving farm programs reduces the prob- life habitat, and to reduce dangers associated ability of survival more for moderate-size farms with the use of agricultural chemicals. New tillthan for large farms. OTA's analyses find that age technologies, however, may reduce erosion large farms can survive and prosper without and threats to wildlife while increasing the farm programs. And, because these farms ac- dangers from the use of agricultural chemicals. count for the vast majority of farm program ben- The new technologies are most likely to reefits, significant savings in Government expend- ceive first adoption by farmers who are well itures could be realized if large farms were financed and are capable of providing the soineligible to receive program payments. phisticated management required to make profOn the other hand, this study finds that mod- table use of the technologies. Most of these erate farms need farm programs to survive and farmers will be associated with relatively large be successful. Income supports, in particular, operations. Hence, the technologies will tend provide significant benefits to moderate farms, to give additional economic advantages to large and the targeting of income supports to moder- farm firms relative to moderate and smaller ate farms is an effective policy tool for prolong- farms, accentuating the trend toward a dual ing these farms' survival. farm structure in the United States.
Those changes in tax policy that would be In addition, since many of the new technolmore restrictive have little impact on farm sur- ogies tend to be environmentally enhancing, vival. Increasing the Federal tax burden on public interest exists in research and education farmers reduces the average annual rate of that can lead to the rapid development and widegrowth in farm size uniformly for all farm sizes. spread adoption of the technologies. That con-
16 e Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agricultu~e
clusion becomes even stronger if public policy plant breeding and animal husbandry for cenis aimed at maintenance of the moderate-size tunes and that genetically engineered microfarm. Larger farms, with their own access to oganisms are no more dangerous than microresearch results and scientific expertise, may organisms already in commercial use or that be able to advance the new technologies with might be used in nature. However, the opporelatively little publicly sponsored research. But nents of deliberate release argue that the new moderate and small farms will have to depend products of genetic engineering are different on publicly sponsored research and extension from the old ones. Scientists do not know how education to gain access to the new technologies these new micro-organisms will behave in the and to adapt them to their individual needs. environment and fear adverse consequences to The new technologies will entail more strin- the ecosystem. Both sides agree that more regen eniromenal eguatins nd trogeren- search should be conducted to assess the pogoreenimentl regulations an strosnger Te tential benefits and risks. Recently, the Envicomplexities of some of the emerging technol- ronmental Protection Agency approved the first ogies will pose significant challenges for those two field tests of genetically altered organisms. promulgating wise environmental regulations.
The economic benefits of the technologies will Impacts on Rural Comunitiels be inviting, but users may have little incentive
to use the technologies in ways that avoid un- The impacts of technological and structural necessary, adverse, third-party effects. Eco- change in agriculture do not end with the indinomic incentives or disincentives, including the viduals who live and work on farms. A variety use of excise taxes to discourage overuse of of additional consequences are expected at the potentially threatening materials, represent a level of rural communities, consequences that promising approach to the protection of envi- directly or indirectly affect farms and farmers. ronmental values than do direct regulation. Ad- As with individual farmers, some communities ditional efforts to enforce existing regulations are likely to benefit from change, while others would hasten the adoption of the new technol- are likely to be affected adversely. Much deogies that seem less environmentally threaten- pends on the type of overall labor force in the ing. New regulations will be required, however, community and on the opportunities for labor for dealing with some aspects of the emerging to move to other employment areas. technologies. Hard-hit communities may need technical
Perhaps the most revolutionary of the new assistance to attract new businesses to their technologies are those associated with rDNA. areas, to develop labor retraining programs, and While the specific applications of such technol- to alter community infrastructure to attract new ogies appear likely to reduce resource needs and inhabitants. To accomplish these goals, Federal threats to the environment that arise from agri- policy will have to be complemented by regional cultural activities, dangers may accompany the and local policies. deliberate release of genetically altered micro- Tho se rural communities that benefit from organisms. The revolutionary nature of the new chane in agricultural technology and strucbiotechnologies and the lack of a scientifically cue ange sonsvrlwy.Freape accepted predictive ecology prevent specific tur aycltr doesosra ways. Foncraped, evaluation of resource/environmental impacts som arclbcomtes more concetate forsoie aith ths tieaerlaeo e centers for the provision of new, high-value techform of ifeat tis tme.nical services and products. Likewise, some Many scientists see little danger in the appli- communities will emerge as centers for highcations of rDNA technology in laboratory ex- volume food packaging, processing, and distriperiments. The proponents of biotechnology ar- bution. Inboth cases, the economic base of these gue that genetic engineering has been used in communities is likely to expand. However, un-
Ch. 1-Summaty a 17
less total demand for agricultural commodities unities. A potential exists for the CATF reincreases substantially, centralization of serv- gion to increase its share of national agricultural ices, marketing, and processing will be like a production, which would mitigate the trend zero-sum game in many areas. The market cen- toward increasing unemployment. However, inters will benefit at the expense of other com- creased agricultural production in this region munities. Many of the communities that are by- will tend to be constrained by the cost of irrigapassed will decline as a result of the process of tion water and the need to control environcentralization. mental impacts.
Communities also may benefit in those parts The coastal zone of the South also has a subof the country in which the number of small and stantial potential for structural change similar part-time farms is increasing. This phenome- to that of the CATF region. Topography and clinon results in an increase in population in many mate favor large-scale, labor-intensive producrural areas and an increase in total income and tion of fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. spending in some of these areas. The increase The area also has a segmented, relatively unin small farms may sustain additional retail es- skilled labor force that could provide a source tablishments thanwould otherwise be the case, of low-cost labor similar to that of the CATF since purchases by small farmers may tend to region. It is difficult to generalize about the rest be more from local sources than those by larger of the South, owing to the diversity of agriculfarmers. The operators of these farms in many tural structure and production. Evidence exists cases subsidize their own production from off- of a relatively strong association between rates farm income. of unemployment and agricultural structure.
A wide range of diversity is evident in the Unemployment rates tend to be lowest in councharacter, agricultural structure, patterns of ties with a predominance of moderate farms. change, and patterns of impact on rural com- In the Northeast, dairy products are the single munities in the five different regions of the most important agricultural commodity group. United States studied for this report: Because dairy farms are likely to experience
1. the CATF (California, Arizona, Texas, and widespread failure as a consequence of the comFlorida) region; bination of technological change and public pol2. the South; icies, the structure of agriculture in the North3. the Northeast; east is likely to change substantially during the
4. the Midwest; and next 10 to 15 years. However, rural communi5. the Great Plains and the West. ties in the Northeast have a low overall depenA clear picture of adverse relationships be- dence on income from agriculture. Most protween agricultural structure and the welfare of ductive agricultural counties in the Northeast are adjacent to metropolitan areas where greater
rural communities is evident in the industrial- employment opportunities and services are agricultural counties of the CATF region. Large- available. The most rural counties sometimes scale and very large-scale industrialized agri- are not the most agricultural. Therefore, rural culture in these communities is strongly asso- communities in the Northeast generally are not ciated with high rates of poverty, substandard likely to experience adverse consequences from housing, and exploitative labor practices in the structural change, with the exception of a few rural communities that provide hired labor for localities with especially high dependence on these farms. Very large-scale agriculture has dairy production. been a strong source of employment in the CATF
region for many years, although at very low No clear-cut evidence exists that rural comwage rates. Emerging technologies may reduce munities in the Midwest were adversely affected the labor requirements throughout much of the by structural change during the 1970s. In genCATF region by 2000. Increased unemployment eral, alternative sources of employment in the will greatly increase the strain on these com- manufacturing and service sectors were rela-
18 Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture
timely prevalent and are expected to continue Impacts on Agricultural Research to be rela#vely good in the Midwest. Indicators and Extension
of social welfare, in general, tended to improve
as farm structure moved from small and part- U.S. agriculture has been very successful to time farms toward moderate to large farms dur- an important extent because of technological ing the 1970s. However, there was a tendency advances. However, agriculture's adoption of biofor population to decline in counties where the technology and information technology raises share of part-ownership of farms increased. As several questions about the impact of technical with the Northeast region, there is a reasonable advances on the performance of the research expectation that technological change in the and extension system and about how that perdairy industry will result in a mass exodus of formance will ultimately affect the structure of small to moderate dairy farms during the next agriculture.
5 to 15 years. Rural communities in dairy coun- Public research in the past was the driving ties may not be adversely affected because off- force for agricultural production. Now, with the farm employment is quite high in these coun- private sector becoming more involved in certies. Those mixed agricultural counties on the tain aspects of applied research, the public secwestern edge of the Midwest that are relatively tor is emphasizing increased basic research. dependent on agriculture are the most likely to This situation leaves open the question of who suffer adverse consequences from structural will do applied research in the public sector. change. If the percent of part-ownership in- Although the public sector has allocated recreases as agriculture becomes more concen- sources to research in biotechnology and infortrated, population, median income, and retail mation technology, extension has done little sales may decline in these counties. to make information about these technologies
available to farmers. The extension service must
Strong potential exists for development of a thus decide what its mission will be, for extenhigh concentration of agricultural production sion policy will determine how effective modin the Great Plains and the West, especially in erate farm operators will be in gaining access terms of farm size, if not gross sales per farm. to new technology. Without such access modIn turn, the number and percent of hired man- erate-size farms will disappear even faster. agers in this region is likely to increase. Unlike
the South, there is a low potential for develop- Consideration of specific changes in research ment of an industrialized agriculture with large and extension policy may be justified. The folnumbers of hired field workers. The most likely lowing areas have been identified as meriting adverse impact will be the loss of population consideration for policy changes: and small retail firms in the region. In general, The social contract on which the agriculfewer alternate employment options will be tural research and extension system was crelikely in manufacturing and the service indus- ated needs reevaluation. This issue should tries in this region than in the other regions of not be left for resolution by the courts. Spethe country. cific guidelines must be developed that allow the system to compete while protectThis study shows clearly that policies de- ing the public interest and investment in
signed to prevent or ameliorate adverse impacts the agricultural research and extension and promote beneficial impacts need to be crafted functions. Both Congress and the U.S. Dewith consideration for regional structural/tech- partment of Agriculture (USDA) should nological. differences. Generalizing about the have a voice in this type of policy develimpacts of changing agricultural technology opment.
and structure on rural communities across re- Some experts believe that increased private gions of the United States is difficult. sector support for agricultural research sig-
Ch. 1-Summary 19
nals less need for public support. Even herently biased toward large-scale farms,
though private sector support complements lags in adoption by small and moderate public support, basic biotechnology and farms have the effect of such a bias. Unless
information technology research is very special attention is given to technology gencostly. A reduced role for public research eration and transfer to moderate farms, maand extension would result in a slower rate jor structural changes could result, leading of technological progress and a lower level to the eventual demise of a decentralized of protection for the public. In addition, the structure that includes moderate farms. To public has a strong interest in maintaining the extent that preservation of these farms an agricultural research component in each is a policy objective, special funding for and State to serve the problem-solving needs of emphasis on the problems of technology that State's agriculture, generation and the transfer of that technolMany agricultural problems are local or re- ogy to moderate farms is warranted. gional in scope. The applied nature of the *Although the agricultural research system system, having an agricultural experiment has received the benefits of increased fundstation and extension service in each State, ing from both private and public sources, has provided a unique capacity to identify extension funding has not materially inand solve local or regional problems. Real- creased. As a result, extension staff at the ity suggests that only certain universities county and specialist levels are being caught have sufficient resources to compete for pri- up in a whirlwind of technological change. vate sector support in biotechnology and The result is a need for the injection of subinformation technology. The result is a con- stantial staff development funding into the fluence of forces that is creating a dichot- extension system. omy of "have" and "have not" universities. *Basic organizational issues must be adThere is, however, still an important role dressed by the Extension Service. The premfor even the smallest, poorest funded land- ise on which extension was developed was grant university. It plays an important part that of research scientists conveying the in a national system designed to deal with knowledge of discoveries to the extension thousands of agro-ecosystems and to the specialist who, in turn, supplied informaexistence of a decentralized system with tion to the county agent who then taught nationwide capability. Because of these in- the farmer. Over time, this concept has equalities, there is concern that the tradi- gradually but persistently broken down as tional extension-research interaction and agricultural technology has become more feedback mechanisms could break down, complex and insufficient resources have
particularly in States that are not in a posi- been devoted to staff development. Consetion to command a major biotechnology quently, more emphasis has been placed
component. on direct specialist-to-farmer education.
*The role of extension is even more impor- More specialists have been placed in the tant than it has been in the past. New, more field to be closer to their clientele, but at complex products require evaluation and the cost of less contact with research scienexplanation. In States where experiment tists. As these changes have occurred, the
stations have attracted substantial private role of the county agent has become increassector support, the product testing function ingly unclear. Appreciation for and use of can be most objectively performed by exten- county agents as educators and technology sion. The recently passed 1985 farm bill transfer agents has declined. As a result of gives explicit authority for extension to en- these changes, a basic structural reevaluagage in applied research functions such as tion of the organization of the extension product testing and evaluation, function of the agricultural research sys*While most agricultural research is not in- tem is needed.
20 Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture
IMPLICATIONS AND POLICY OPTIONS FOR AGRICULTURE
The Issue of Farm Structure competitive prices. Cooperatives traditionThis study indicates that the process of struc- ally have performed that role. But coopertural change in agriculture has already begun. atives by and large are not conducting or Based on a continuation of current policies, past funding basic or applied research in biotrends, and future technological expectations, technology and information technology. the net result of this structural change could be Also, like their predominantly moderatethe development of a farm structure composed size farmer members, cooperatives, too,
of three agricultural classes: have encountered financial difficulty.
3. The small, predominantly part-time farm
1. The large-scale farm segment would be segment tends to obtain most of its net incomposed of a relatively small number of come from off-farm sources. However, this
farms that produce the bulk of U.S. produc- segment is highly diverse. It includes tion. By year 2000 there could be as few as wealthy urban investors and professionals 50,000 large-scale farms producing as much who use agriculture primarily as a tax shelas three-fourths of the agricultural produc- ter and/or country home. It also includes tion. This large-scale farm segment would would-be moderate farm operators who are be highly efficient in the performance of attempting to use off-farm income as a production, marketing, financial, and busi- means of entering agriculture on a full-time ness management functions. Such farms basis. Finally, this segment includes a numwould be run by full-time, highly educated ber of poor, essentially subsistence, farmers business managers. Barring unforeseen who are vestiges of the war on poverty in
acts of nature, farm operators would be able the 1960s. Such farmers remain a signifito predict their chances of making a profit cant social concern that must be dealt with before planting or breeding. from a policy perspective, although tradi2. The struggling moderate-size farm segment tional farm price and income policy hold
would be trying to find a niche in the mar- no hope for solving their problems.
ket and survive in an industrialized agri- Contemporary farm programs have fostered cultural setting. The potential for the mod- this trend toward three farm-size classes. Payerate farm finding that niche is rapidly ments to farmers on a per-unit-of-production becomingthe center of the farm policy de- basis concentrate most of the benefits in large bate. Traditionally highly productive, effi- farms that produce most of the output. Large cient, moderate-size, full-time farms have farms have been in the best position to take
been the backbone of American agriculture.
It is still true that a moderate, technologi- advantage of new technologies arising out of cally up-to-date, and well-managed farm the public sector agricultural research system.
with good yields is highly resilient. One key Without substantial changes in the nature and to the success of these farms clearly lies in objectives of farm policy, the three classes of the management factor. But more often farms will soon become two-the moderate-size than not, management has to be willing to farm will largely be eliminated as a viable force accept a relatively low return on invested in American agriculture. In addition, the probcapital, time, and effort. With ever-increas- lems of the small subsistence farm will continue
ing educational requirements associated to fester as an unaddressed social concern.
with farming, there will likely be less willingness by successful managers of moder- This section sets forth the policy changes that ate farms to accept a lower return for their would be required if it were decided by Conservices and for invested capital. Another gress that overt steps should be taken to foster key to the survival of moderate farms lies a diverse, decentralized structure of farming in access to state-of-the-art technologies at where all sizes of farms had an opportunity to
Ch. 1 -Summary @ 21
compete and survive in a time of rapidly chang- The criteria for determining what constitutes ing technology. The objective of giving every a large-scale farm is important but also somefarm the opportunity to compete and survive what arbitrary. The dividing line developed does not imply an unchanging and stagnant from this study is about $250,000 in sales for farm structure. It does imply a political and so- a crop or dairy farm unit under single ownercial sensitivity both to the impact of current farm ship or control. This level of sales is generally programs on farm structure and to the differ- required to achieve most of the economies of ent needs of large, moderate, and small farms size found to exist in agricultural production for Government assistance. It can be expected Over time, this optimum size has had, and will that regardless of what Government does fewer continue to have, a tendency to increase. As this commercial farms will exist in year 2000. How- occurs, the farm size criteria for limiting proever, Government can do much to ease the pain gram benefits would likewise have to increase. of adjustment. Creating a Stable Economic Environment.Required Policy Adjustments The policy goal of creating a relatively stable
economic environment where farmers have an
Substantive changes in policy direction are opportunity to sell what they produce implies needed to address the structure issue. Specifi- the following major farm program initiatives: cally, separate policies and programs must be Direct Government payments to all farms pursued with respect to each of the three farm having over $250,000 in sales would be segments-large farms, moderate farms, and eliminated. This implies the elimination of
small farms. The choice of any one set of pol- the target-price concept for this sales class. icies to the exclusion of the other policy sets Elimination of payments to those farms would imply that Congress desired to selectively would significantly reduce Government exenhance the status of one farm segment. penditures in agriculture.
Policy for all farmers implies two basic pol- The nonrecourse loan would be converted icy goals: to a recourse loan. The nonrecourse feature has resulted in the accumulation of
" All farmers need to operate in a relatively large Government commodity stocks. The stable economic environment where they recourse feature would provide a continuhave an opportunity to sell what they ing base of support for the orderly marketproduce. ing of farm products.
" All farmers need a base of public research Aside from the recourse price support loan, and extension support whereby they can Government credit to farms having over
maintain their competitiveness in the mar- $250,000 in sales would not be available.
kets in which they deal. e An expanded international development
The needs of large farms can be met by ad- assistance program would be established.
dressing just these goals. The needs of moder- Such a program would have to include an ate and small farms are more complex, how- optimum balance of commodity aid and
ever. Policy to address the needs of moderate economic development aid. Its primary and small farms must include the elements of objective would be to help developing counlarge farm policy as well as additional elements. tries improve economic growth, thus becoming better future customers of AmerPolicy for Large Commercial Farms ican agriculture.
* A balanced macroeconomic policy that
A basic conclusion of this study is that large- facilitates growth of export markets and scale farmers do not need direct Government
payments and/or subsidies to compete and survive. However, this does not preclude the need 6'rhe $2 50,000 figure is based on census data and the economies for a commercial farm policy. of size analysis discussed previously.
22 Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture
maintains a relatively low real rate of in- e The risk of moderate farmers operating in terest would have to be maintained, an open market environment would be
Maintaining Technological Competitiveness. *reduced.
-Thetecnolgicl cmpettivnes ofAme- -New technologies that have the potential for ican farmers would be aided by continuing a farmers. ud eaaialet odrt
policy that encourages public and private in- faOpportuis. frepomn usdgi vestment in agricultural research. The major culptu ie oul bemreate t othse arer thrust of the research and extension programs whotre wuabe cto d opet. efamr as they affect larger scale commercial farms woaeual ocmee would be as follows: Diligent enforcement would be needed to as" Th trnd owar inreaed pbli setor sure that the benefits of programs established Th trnd owar inreaed pbli setor to favor moderate farms are limited to those
emphasis on basic research would be con- frmrfowhmteaeinnd.
tinued. Increased reliance would be placed famrfowhmteaeinnd.
on the private sector for applied research Reducing Risks to Moderate-Size Farms.-The in the development of new products. most difficult obstacle to survival facing the
" Even though public sector research would moderate farm is that of managing risk. Three
be aimed more toward basic research, an im- options, that are not necessarily mutually exportant problem-solving component would clusive, could reduce the risks confronting modbe maintained to adopt new technologies erate farms.
to various agro-eco systems and to maintain 1. Income protection could be provided through newly achieved productivity from the evo- either a continuation of the current targetlution of pests and disease, decline in soil price concept for moderate farms only or fertility, and other factors. through a device known as the marketing
" Extension's role in direct education of, loan. Like the current nonrecourse loan, the
or consultation with, large-scale farmers marketing loan is a loan from the Governwould be deemphasized. Private consul- ment on commodities in storage. If the comtants could play an increased role in tech- modity is sold for less than the loan value, nology transfer to the large-scale farm the farmer pays back only those receipts segment. to the Government in full payment of the
loan. The marketing loan, in essence, becomes a guaranteed price to the producer.
Policy for Moderate-Size Farms The level of the marketing loan should be
Policy for moderate farms includes the afore- no greater than the average cost of producmentioned options as well as additional options tion for moderate farmers. tailored specifically to the needs of moderate 2. The nonrecourse loan concept could be farms. OTA finds, for example, that moderate continued for moderate farms. However, farms having $100,000 to $250,000 in gross sales the nonrecourse loan level should not be face major problems of competing and surviv- set any higher than the recourse loan suging in the biotechnology and information tech- gested previously for large farms, or else
noloy ea. Sme oderte armswil surivethe Government could end up acquiring andg er.some oderhsater farmushill suvie most of the production from moderate andisoe ill t. This ltter gocupaholdsb farms.
assitedin teirmoveto theroccpatins. 3. Sharply increased assistance could be proPolicy for moderate farms requires the same vided by the public sector to reduce the risk stable economic environment and base of sup- to moderate farms. Such assistance could port for agricultural research and extension as be in the form of educational programs for for large farms. But, in addition, the following example, on risk management, futures marspecific policy goals for moderate farms can be kets, contracting, and cooperative marspecified: keting.
Oh. 1-Summary o 23
Technology Availability and Transfer to Mod- *New opportunities for employment of diserate-Size Farms .-OTA finds that agricultural placed farmers need to be explored and derese rch, as a general rule, is not inherently hi- veloped within agriculture as the industry ased against moderate farms. Rather, moder- continues to evolve. ate farms may be seriously disadvantaged ei- *To facilitate the transition to nonfarm jobs, ther by lags in adoption or by lack of access to special skills training programs aimed at competitive markets for the products produced those areas where significant employment by new technology. The following initiatives opportunities exist must be considered. could help curtail such problems of technology jobs in rapidly growing service, health care, availability and transfer. or care-for-the-aged industries provide con" Extension's evaluation of the increasing *temporary examples.
numbr ofnewprodctsenteingthe ar-Financial assistance, similar to the famous
ne ube insprod.Tseincreaed mar- G. I. bill, might be established to assist disket would bea itnifed.a This inc1) reased- placed farmers or rural residents during the
ing a check on the efficacy and efficiency berido rniinwiesil riing reeied of new products in biotechnology and in- bing resceverefnniadtesass
formation technology, and 2) eliminating tnacea maybeprvie inc stess or sofiothe costs associated with individual farmertacmybepoidinhefrofGv
expeimenatin wih tose ew roduts.erment purchase of land or production
"Exteienaionwtechnlg toser ewrducts rights from displaced farmers at its "longwol Exensi d technology y te soerices term fair market value." The returns from
woudze famTed pcifaly at odeuc rt- the land could be used by the displaced
grams would be to ensure the same sched- Govmernm oldtain hand nig conule of adoption of technologies for soerainmncol resetant un i neee
moderate-size as well as large farms. forvafutureseroduct n i tisnee
" The development of cooperatives that em- frftr rdcin
phasize technology supply and transfer
services to moderate farms would have to Policy for SmaIIIPartTime Forms
ceudrtaeinol. aetob aeaal Policy for small/part-time farms includes sev"Ample crdtol aet emd vi- eral elements in addition to those mentioned
able to moderate-size farms that have the udrlrefr oiy
potential to survive and grow. Government udrlrefr oiy
credit in concert with cooperative credit With few exceptions, small farms, those haycould be aimed specifically toward filling ing less.than $100,000 in sales, are not viable the needs of moderate-size farms. Empha- economic entities in the mainstream of commersis should be placed on credit required to cial agriculture-nor can they be made so. Howkeep moderate farms technologically up- ever, even a small increase in their farm income to-date. could have a significant multiplier effect on the
Transition Policy to Other Agricultural En- local economy because of the large number of terprises or Nonfarm Employment.-Regardless small farms. These farms survive because their of the effectiveness of the initiatives discussed operators have substantial outside income (p artabove, an accelerated need exists to assist farm time farmers), or because they have found themfamilies to either move to other agricultural en- selves a niche in marketing a unique product terprises or out of agriculture into other occu- with special services attached (often direct to pations. The need arises, therefore, for specific consumers), and/or because they are willing to public action to facilitate the farmer's transi- accept a very low return on resources contribtion from the current farm operation into gain- uted to the farming operation. ful, productive employment elsewhere. Specific For the small farmers who have substantial initiatives to ease this process include the fol- outside income or who have found a niche in lowing: the market, Government's role would be severe-
24 e Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture
ly restricted. They are as much able to take care farmers who are often not in a position to of themselves as owners of large farms. take advantage of other farm programs such
However, small subsistence farmers who have as price and income supports.
limited resources, and often limited revealed Marketing programs geared to subsistence abilities, represent genuine problem for which agriculture are essential for providing hope public concern is warranted-these indeed are for this farm segment. The difficulty lies
the rural people left behind. Price and income in the inability of these farmers to obtain support programs have done and can do little access to the mass markets through which
to solve their problems. These impoverished in- most agricultural production moves. dividuals are a social and economic problem. Policy for Rural Communities The following suggestions are made for dealing with the problems of subsistence farmers: The impact of adjustment in agriculture to
" Initiate a special study to identify those in- changing technology will by no means be limdividuals and their specific statuses and ited to the farm sector. Rural communities will needs. Develop social programs to meet be at least equally affected by increasing farm those needs. size, integration, and moderate farm displace" USDA and the land-grant university bear ment. Although, these effects will be felt initially a special burden of responsibility for serv- by implement dealers, farm supply and marketing the needs of these subsistence farmers. ing firms, or bankers, the reverberations will This responsibility has not generally been extend throughout the community in terms realized and, therefore has not been ful- of employment levels, tax receipts, and required filled. In the South, this responsibility falls services. Rural communities should assess these particularly heavily on the 1890 land-grant impacts and prepare to make needed adjustuniversities in concert with the statewide ments. To ease the pain of adjustment the folextension education programs and the 1862 lowing actions are suggested:
land-grant universities. In the North, the Comprehensive programs for community responsibility for serving the agricultural redevelopment and change need to be inieducational and research needs of subsis- tiated throughout rural America. Such detence farmers falls exclusively on the 1862 velopment plans should be fostered and land-grant universities. facilitated by Federal and State government
" USDA and these land-grant universities agencies.
could be directed to develop jointly a plan Increased employment opportunities in rufor serving the agricultural research and ral areas could be fostered by aggressively
educational needs of these farmers. Such attracting new business activities in rural
a plan could include the delivery of farm- communities. Particular emphasis would ing, credit, and marketing systems designed be -placed on attracting those businesses to maximize the small farm's agricultural that develop technologies and serve the
production and earning capacity. needs of high-technology agriculture in ru" Specific farming systems must be devel- ral areas.
oped to serve specifically the needs of small Rural communities could be assisted in desubsistence farms. Such systems should, to veloping and modernizing the infrastructhe extent practicable, encompass the use ture needed to be a socially and economiof new technologies. cally attractive place to live. Some rural
" Credit delivery systems for small subsis- communities can serve as an attractive retence farmers could be developed specifi- tirement residence for an aging population.
cally by USDA through the Farmers Home But this would require that a higher level
Administration. Such systems should con- of social services be developed.
sider the unique capital and cash flow-lim- Rural communities need to play a vital role iting factors associated with subsistence in skills training for displaced farmers and
Ch. 1-Summary 25
rural community employees. School and terests. Distribution of these benefits may be so university outreach programs could be unequally distributed that competitive performmodified to serve this important role. ance is impaired. In addition, no scientifically acceptable methodology exists for weighing the
risks or hazards of biotechnology research. To
Policy for Technology and deal with such issues, the following policy sugEnvironmental Resource Adjustment gestions are made:
One of the major reasons that American agri- Steps should be taken to secure the public culture has been so productive is because tech- interest on which the USDA and land-grant nological change has been fostered by the pub- university agricultural research system has lic sector and nurtured by a profit-seeking been based. Assurance must be provided
private sector. As a result, American consumers that the benefits of publicly supported rehave enjoyed a plentiful supply of low-cost food search and extension are not captured in and natural fiber. In addition, agricultural ex- the form of excess profits by the private sector based on research property rights and
ports have made a major contribution to the increased private sector funding of public
overall development of export markets, to the research. The effect would be to stifle the benefit of the general economy. Biotechnology process of discovery and the dissemination
and information technology promise to offer of new knowledge.
more of the same, with the added bonus of less Major investments must be made to foster chemicals used in the production of food- the development of human capital that is
whether for the control of pests, disease, and in a position to cope with the process of weeds, or for the production of commercial fer- rapidly changing agricultural technology. tilizer. This need extends from the training and deMaintaining the productivity and competi- velopment of the most basic biological retiveness of U.S. agriculture in the public inter- search scientists, through the extension speest requires a balance between public and pri- cialist and county agent, to the farmer who vate sector support for technological change. adopts the new technology and the banker Yet it would be wrong to imply that there are who supplies the loan for its purchase. no risks. The conferring of property rights on Little is known about the adverse impacts discoveries of the agricultural research system of potential biotechnology developments has shiftedthe agricultural research balance be- on the ecosystem. These risks must be caretween the public and private sectors toward the fully assessed, monitored, and where necprivate sector. While the effects of this shift ap- essary, regulated. Care must be taken, howpear to be positive, concerns exist that a sub- ever, not to overregulate and thereby stifle stantial portion of the benefits of even public the potential competitiveness and producresearch could be captured by private firm in- tivity of U.S. agriculture.
The biotechnology and information technol- potential adjustment problems in the agricultural ogy revolution in agricultural production has sector and in rural communities. Those costs the potential for creating a larger, safer, less ex- can be minimized by careful analysis, planning, pensive, more stable, and more nutritious food and implementation. This study is only the first supply. Yet it will exact substantial costs in po- step in that direction.
The Emerging Technologies
B iotechnology .................................................... 31
A nim al A griculture .............................................. 31
Plant A griculture ................................................ 32
Inform ation Technology ............................................ 32
Survey of Emerging Technologies ................................... 33
Anim al Genetic Engineering ...................................... 33
A nim al Reproduction ............................................ 37
Regulation of Livestock Growth and Development .................... 38
A nim al N utrition ................................................ 39
A nim al Disease Control .......................................... 40
Livestock Pest Control ............................................ 41
Environment and Animal Behavior ................................ 42
Crop Residues and Animal W astes ................................. 42
Plant Genetic Engineering ........................................ 44
Enhancement of Photosynthetic Efficiency .......................... 47
Plant Grow th Regulators .......................................... 48
Plant Disease and Nematode Control ............................... 49
M anagement of Insects and M ites ................................. 50
Biological Nitrogen Fixation ...................................... 52
W ater and Soil-W ater-Plant Relations ............................... 53
Land M anagem ent ............................................... 54
Soil Erosion, Productivity, and Tillage .............................. 56
M ultiple C ropping ............................................... 58
W eed Control ... :' * '' * ............... 59
Com m ercial Fertilizers ........................................... 60
O rganic Farm ing ................................................ 61
Communication and Information Mangement ....................... 62
Monitoring and Control Technology ............................... 63
Telecom m unications ............................................. 65
Labor-Saving Technology ......................................... 67
Engines and Fuels ............................................... 68
Crop Separation, Cleaning, and Processing Technology ............... 68
Chapter 2 References .............................................. 70
Table No. Page
2-1. Emerging Agricultural Production Technology Areas ............... 34
Figure No. Page
2-1. General Configuration of Information Technologies in Production
A griculture .................................................... 33
2-2. Recombinant DNA Procedure .................................... 34
2-3. Monoclonal Antibody Production ................................. 36
2-4. Schematic Presentation of Cow Embryo Transfer Procedures ......... 37
2-5. Plant Propagation-From Single Cells to Whole Plants ............... 45
2-6. Gene Modification-Insertion of a Desired Gene Into the
Host Plant Through Vectors ...................................... 46
2-7. Configuration of Monitoring and Control Technologies in Agriculture 65
Emerging Technologies for Agriculture
American agriculture is on the threshold of development of a new technology takes years, the biotechnology and information technology often decades, it is often possible to forecast fuera. Like the eras that preceded it-the mechan- ture technologies while they are still in the labical era of 1930-50 and the chemical era of 1950- oratory. One method is to obtain collective judg70-this era will bring technologies that can sig- ments from experts who have direct access to nificantly increase agricultural yields. the latest available information, a method OTA
The mmeiat imact ofthebioecholoies chose. OTA collected information from three Thl e imeiaste inmat poctbioechoge rounds of a mailed survey to about 300 leading
willbe eltfirt i anmalproucton.Thrugh public and private scientists and research adembryo transfers, gene insertion, growth hor- ministrators who had broad, cross-cutting permones, and other genetic engineering tech- spectives about future technologies (Lu, 1983). niques, dairy cows will produce more milk per Based on these surveys and on subsequent intercow; cattle, swine, sheep, and poultry will pro- views with scientists in various disciplines duce more meat per pound of feed. Impacts in around the country, OTA thus identified the 28 plant production will take longer to occur, areas of emerging technologies that are likely almost the remainder of the century. By that (with at least a 50-50 chance) to emerge before time, however, technical advances will allow 2000 and to have major impacts on the agriculmajor crops to be altered genetically for disease tural sector. Many of the technologies examined and insect resistance, higher production of pro- for this study, such as growth hormones, montein, and self-production of fertilizer and her- oclonal antibodies, superovulation, and embryo bicide. Until then, crop yields will increase tases r led ntemrepae hl
through the use of traditional technologies, but tasers are lre in the arkepac, w lnbeat less than past rates. come available for commercial introduction unBoth plant production and animal production til 2000. will benefit from advances in information tech- This chapter presents an overview of the manology. Computers, telecommunications, mon- joadncsibotholgadifrmin itoring and control technology, and informa- jo dasi technology and te ecie infmormain
tionmangemet wll b wiely sedon frms the 28 areas of technologies that were assessed to increase management efficiency. for this study. It should be noted that some of
Some of these new technologies will emerge the emerging technologies assessed will be in unexpectedly; however, most will undergo a neither the biotechnology nor information techlong process of development, from initiation of nology categories. ideas to commercial introduction. Since the
Biotechnology, broadly defined, includes any the processes of living things. Such knowledge technique that uses living organisms to make and skills will give scientists much greater conor modify products, to improve plants or ani- trol over biological systems, leading to signifimals, or to develop micro-organisms for specific cant improvements in the production of plants uses. It focuses on two powerful molecular ge- and animals. netic techniques, recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (rDNA) and cell fusion technologies. Anlnl Agriculture With these techniques scientists can visualize
the gene-to isolate, clone, and study the struc- One of the major thrusts of biotechnology in ture of the gene and the gene's relationships to animal agriculture is the mass production in 31
32 e Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture
micro-organisms of proteinaceous pharmaceu- other animal species (to make chimeric animals ticals,' including a number of hormones, en- or to permit the heterologous species to carry zymes, activating factors, amino acids, and feed the embryo to term), or frozen in liquid nitrogen. supplements (Bachrach, 1985). Previously ob- These and other genetic engineering techtained only from animal and human organs, niques are explained more fully under "Animal these biologicals either were unavailable in prac- Genetic Engineering," later in this chapter. tical amounts or were in short supply and costly.
Some of these biologicals can be used for thePlnAgiutr detection, prevention, and treatment of infec-PlnAgiltr tious and genetic diseases; some can be used The application of biotechnologies in plant to increase production efficiency. agriculture could modify crops so that they
Another technique, embryo transfer in cows, would make more nutritious protein, resist ininvolves artificially inseminating a superovu- sects and disease, grow in harsh environments, lated donor anima12 and removing the result- and provide their own nitrogen fertilizer. While ing embryos nonsurgically for implantation in the immediate impacts of biotechnology will be and carrying to term by surrogate mothers. Prior greater for animal agriculture, the long-term to implantation, the embryos can be treated in impacts may be substantially greater for plant a number of ways. They can be sexed, split (gen- agriculture. The potential applications of bioerally to make twins), fused with embryos of technology on plant agriculture include micro_______bial inocula, plant propagation, and genetic 'Pharmaceuticals that are proteins. modification (Fraley, 195.All areexlid
2An animal that has been injected with a hormone to stimulate 18) xlie
the production of more than the normal number of eggs per ovu- later in this chapter under "Plant Genetic Engilation. neering."
Agricultural information technologies can be technologies, generally considered to be subclassified as: 1) communication and informa- systems, are located at the site of production tion management, 2) monitoring and control activities, such as livestock confinement systechnologies, or 3) telecommunications. The tems, storage facilities, and irrigation pumping relationships of these classifications are shown and control stations, and on mobile equipment in figure 2-1. such as tractors and combines. Monitoring and
Communication and information manage- control systems can function autonomously, alment consists of onfarm digital communication though they are increasingly being connected
sytmknown generically as local area net- to the central onfarm information processing wsyems ,cmie ih h ircm system through fixed links and low-power raputer-based information processing technol- tiolns twee the cetaonf ormN.ThAonnecogies used by the farm operator as the central meont sytwemn the nte nomonion ande information processing and management sys- contoltehnged ridtdb the bni oi oxes an tem. This central computer system may include cotltehlgisaendaedbtebxs ly on figure 2-1 labeled "N, for network node. Sevremote terminals with keyboards, display eral different kinds of local configurations of screens, and printers used for onsite data entry the LAN and the components of the onfarm and readout by the farm operator. The computer coptrsteaepsib.Tharngmt terminals are indicated on figure 2-1 by the small somputer isst are osbe They arranglieen boxes labeled "Thw.er"sjstoeo mn osiiiis
Monitoring and control technologies auto- Telecommunication technologies comprise matically monitor and control certain aspects the hardware and software that connect the onof awide variety of production processes. These farm systems with the rest of the world so that
Ch. 2-Emerging Technologies for Agriculture 33
the farmer can communicate with people and Three types of telecommunication technologies
with computer systems in other firms and in- are shown on figure 2-1: satellite ground stastitutions. Telecommunication systems may tions, low-power radio links, and telephone
combine both voice and data communications. lines.
Figure 2.1.-General Configuration of Information Technologies in Production Agriculture
Tractor, combineSatellite andstemimplement link weathground
syste N sttionstation
and atmtcz Central computer system
eingN micro processors
o o and- network controllers Land linesto
Irrigation pump T isly
and flow controls Io- mass storage devices
T 2a sfc liasw n- software packages GC omm
sc Livestock environment h t interfaces)
and waste monitoring
and control tha Communication
Nsof tware Crop, feeda storage (1
SOnfarm communication and N lec unicatiol
con echnolies Information management technologies technologies
N network node T Computer terminal
SOURCE: Office of Technology Assessment.
SURVEY OF EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES
The 28 areas of technologies are shown in ta- Animal Genetic Engineering
ble 2-1. OTA commissioned papers by leading Beceit poer toclte l foms, rN
scientists in each of these technological areas. tenogis nier ed t ne of rA summary of each paper is presented in this cdrsb hc ee ab aiuae o
section.3 improving the health and productivity of plants,
animals, and humans (Bachrach, 1985). Three important genetic engineering procedures are: 1) recombinant DNA (rDNA) techniques, also called gene splicing; 2) monoclonal antibody production; and 3) embryo transfer. 3The papers prepared by those scientists are referenced at the end of this chapter and are available in Technology, Public Pol- Recombinant EMA Techniques icy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture, Volume ll-Background Papers through the National Technical In- Because of its power to alter life forms, rDNA formation Service, U.S. Department of Commerce. technology is considered to be one of the great-
34 Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture
Table 2.1.-Emerging Agricultural Production Technology Areas
Animal Plant, soil, and water
Animal genetic engineering Plant genetic engineering
Animal reproduction Enhancement of photosynthetic efficiency
Regulation of growth and development Plant growth regulators
Animal nutrition Plant disease and nematode control
Disease control Management of insects and mites
Pest control Weed control
Environment of animal behavior Biological nitrogen fixation
Crop residues and animal wastes use Chemical fertilizers
Monitoring and control in animals Water and soil-water-plant relations
Communication and information management Soil erosion, productivity, and tillage Telecommunicationsa Multiple cropping
Labor savings Organic farming
Monitoring and control In plants
Engine and fuels
Crop separation, cleaning, and processing aThese technologies also apply to plant, soil, and water. SOURCE: Office of Technology Assessment.
est achievements of biological science. Through animal cells, where they replicate and produce
this technology DNA fragments fromtwo differ- many useful proteins, such as insulin, growth
ent species can be fused together to form new hormones, prolactin, prolaxin, enzymes, toxins,
units called recombinant plasmids (figure 2-2). blood proteins, subunit protein vaccines, imSuch rDNA molecules might contain, for ex- munity enhancers (such as interferons and interample, a gene from human insulin fused with leukins), and nutrients like amino acids and
DNA that regulates the reproduction of bacte- single-cell protein feed supplements. Recombiria. When such molecules are inserted into bac- nant DNA technology also produces DNA seteria, they instruct that bacteria to manufacture quences for use as probes in detecting bacterial human insulin. Molecules of rDNA can now be poisoning of foods and for diagnosing and treatinserted into a variety of bacteria, yeasts, and ing infectious and genetic diseases.
Figure 2-2.-Recombinant DNA Procedure
Enzyme cuts twice
freeing a gene
Animal DNA Sticky ends product
A spliced by aInsert into
_ _Iu Replication
vector open -- of plasmid
rDNA plasmid cBacterium with
0 0 functional animal gene
Bacterial DNA plasmid
An animal gene is spliced Into a carrier DNA (called a vector) for insertion into a micro-organism (a bacterium is shown) or alternate animal host cell, and is made to replicate and express Its protein product. SOURCE: Office of Technology Assessment.
Ch. 2-Emnerging Technologies for Agriculture 35
One of the applications of the new pharma- a supermouse that was more than twice the size ceuticals is the manufacture of growth hor- of a normal mouse (Palmiter, et al., 1983). In mones that can be injected into animals to in- another experiment, scientists at Ohio Univercrease production efficiency. Monsanto, Eli sity inserted rabbit genes into the embryos of Lilly, and other firms are developing genetically mice. The genetically engineered mice were 2.5 engineered bovine growth hormone (bGH) to times larger than normal mice (Wagner, 1985). stimulate lactation in cows. This hormone, Enorgdbthsucsofheupmue
prouce snturallyd by aenncwh pitiry glnand, experiments, U.S. Department of Agriculture
was yntesied b Geentch fr Mnsato. (USDA) scientists at the Beltsville Agricultural It has been reportedthat daily injections of bGH Research Center and the University of Penninto dairy cows at the rate of 44 milligrams per sylvania are conducting experiments to produce co* per day have resulted in an increase of 10 better sheep and pigs by injecting the human to 40 percent in milk yield. The response to in- growth hormone gene into the reproductive jections is rapid (2 to 3 days) and persists as long cells of sheep and pigs (Hammer, 1985). USDA as treatment is continued (Kalter, et al., 1984). scientists provide scientists at the University More recently, it was reported that the bGH of Pennsylvania with fertilized embryos from treatments have increased milk yield 25 to 30 sheep and pigs at their Beltsville farms. After percent in the laboratory and could increase being injected with the human growth hormone milk yield 20 percent on the farm (Kalter, 1985). genes, the embryos are returned to Beltsville for The new hormone now awaits approval by the insertion into surrogate mothers. U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is expected to be introduced commercially in 1988 The experiments of crossing the genetic ma(Bachrach, 1985; Hansel, 1985; Chem. and Eng. terials of different species in general and of News, 1984). using the human growth hormone in particuAnoter ew tchnquearisng rom he on- lar have prompted lawsuits from two scientific Aegnothene tecniquemarisin fmanthelacon- watchdog groups: the Foundation of Economic vergmiec tofpri genes ndemr meaiulationse Trends and the Humane Society of the United poinses ito phermiendces focewl tralitstocbe States. Both groups charge that such experiinsed inutopenga rerdciew cerlls of limvec ments are a violation of "the moral and ethical anptry opanmaeng anw woduo mprov- canons of civilization,"' and have sought to halt ciency. Unlike the genetically engineered they axprentin The rexerimens autiously growth hormone, which increases an animal's than contreditha the epenialsentficandul milk production or body weight but does not ancotedththepetilsetfcad affect future generations, this technique will al- practical benefits far outweigh the theoretical low future animals to be permanently endowed problems raised by the critics. While the lawwith traits of other animals and humans, and suit is pending, the experiments are continuing. probably also of plants. In this technique, genes Monoclonal Antibody Techniques for a desired trait, such as disease resistance Antibodies are proteins produced by white and growth, are injected directly into either of blood cells in response to the presence of a forthe two pronuclei of a fertilized ovum (egg). eign substance in the body, such as viruses and Upon fusion of the pronuclei, the guest genes bacteria. Each antibody can bind to and inactibecome a part of all of the cells of the develop- vate acell of the foreign substance but will not ing animal, and the traits they determine are harm other kinds of cells. Until recently, the pritransmitted to succeeding generations. mary source of antibodies used for immunizaIn 1983, scientists at the University of Penn- tion and other purposes was blood serum from sylvania and University of Washington success- many animal species. However, such serum also fully inserted a human growth hormone gene, contains antibodies to hundreds of other suba gene that produces growth hormone in human stances, and each antibody type was limited in beings, into the embryo of a mouse to produce quantity.
36 Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture
To produce large quantities of a single anti- Figure 2-3.-Monoclonal Antibody Production
body, scientists now use a technique called monoclonal antibody production (figure 2-3). By fus- -mmunization Growth in myeloma
ing a myeloma cells with a cell that produces cell suspension
an antibody, scientists create a hybridoma, o
which produces (theoretically in perpetuity) large quantities of identical (i.e., monoclonal) antibodies in a pure, highly concentrated form. sC( ,o 0
An array of monoclonal antibodies can now be Spleen cells 0 0 Myeloma cells
produced to fight major virus, bacteria, fungi, and parasites and to diagnose the presence of Fi
a specific agent inbody fluid. The many impor- Fusion
tant uses of monoclonal antibodies in agriculture include: the purification of proteins made by rDNA; the passive immunization of calves
against scours; the detection of food poisoning; Testing and
substitutions for vaccines, antitoxins, and anti- selection
venoms; sexing of livestock embryos; post-coital T::
contraception and pregnancy testing; the imag- -ing, targeting, and killing of cancer cells; the _monitoring of levels of hormones and drugs; andI the prevention of rejection of organ transplants.
Embryo transfer is used for the rapid upgrading of the quality and productive efficiency of livestock, particularly cattle. In the process a Induce and collect Freeze
superovulated donor animal is artificially in- fluid-containing hybridomas
seminated, and the resulting embryos are re- antibodies
moved nonsurgically for implantation in and carrying to term by surrogate mothers (figure I_2-4). Before implantation, the embryos can be To produce monoclonal antibodies, spleen cells from a mouse in. sexed with monoclonal antibody, split to make munized against a specific disease are fused with mouse tumor (myetwins, fused with embryos of other animal spe- loma) cells to create hybrid cells (hybridoma) that grow In culture. The hybridoma cells are then screened for the production of antibodies. cies, or frozen in liquid nitrogen for storage until Hybridomas that test positive are injected into a mouse, and the the estrus of the surrogate mother is in syn- mouse becomes a living factory for the production of antibodies against the same disease. Other positive hybridomas are frozen for chrony with that of the donor. future use.
For gene insertions, the embryo must be in SOURCE: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.
the single-cell stage, having pronuclei that can be injected with cloned foreign genes. The genes likely to be inserted into cattle maybe those for While less than 1 percent of U.S. cattle are growth hormones, prolactins (lactation stimu- involved in embryo transfers, the obvious benlator), digestive enzymes, and interferons, col- efits will cause this percentage to increase raplectively providing both growth and enhanced idly, particularly as the costs of the procedure
resistance to disease. decrease (Brotman, 1983). One company, Genetic
Engineering Inc., already markets frozen cattle embryos domestically and abroad and provides an embryo sexing service for cattle breed4Myelomas are cancerous, antibody-producing cells. ers (Genetic Engineering News, 1983).
Ch. 2-Emerging Technologies for Agriculture a 37
Figure 2.4.-Schematic Presentation of Cow Embryo Transfer Procedures
Superovulatlon of donor Artificial Insemination (5 days Nonaurgical recovery of embryos (8 to with gonadotropins after Initiating superovulation) 8 days after artificial Insemination)
Storage of embryos Indefinitely
Foley catheter for Isolation and claslfl- n liquid nitrogen or at 370C recovery of embryos cation of embryos or room temperature for 1 day
Pregnancy diagnosis by palpation
Transfer of embryos to recipients through the rectal wall I to 3 Bith (9 months after surgically or nonsurglcalty months after embryo transfer embryo transfer) SOURCE: Adapted from G.E. Seidel, Jr., "Super Ovulation and Embryo Transfer in Cattle," Science, vol. 211, Jan. 23, 1981, p. 353.
Because of intense competition between hun- uteri of groups of outstanding female animals
dreds of firms in the United States and abroad, whose estrous cycles have been regulated by
a great many useful genetically engineered prod- artificial means, such as hormone injections,
ucts and processes will be introduced during ear implants, or intravaginal devices. The ova
the 1980s. from this "superovulation" will be culled surgically or nonsurgically (by flushing) and then Animal Reproduction fertilized in the laboratory by spermatozoa from
outstanding males. The fertilized ova can then The field of animal reproduction is undergo- be cultured, frozen, and stored until needed.
ing a scientific revolution that could scarcely Finally, the embryos will be placed in foster
have been visualized a decade ago (Hansel, mothers nonsurgically.
1985). Indeed, if all of the technology now avail- Ultimately, it may be possible to sex the emable were used, a new kind of animal breeding bryos by separating the X- and Y-bearing spersystem could be put into operation within 10 matozoa or by identifying the male embryos by
years. immunological techniques so that recipient beef
By year 2000, artificial insemination may be cows will receive primarily male embryos and
replaced by a system best characterized as "arti- dairy cows will receive primarily female emficial embryonation." In this system highly bryos. Techniques for reducing early embryonic
trained technicians will place embryos into the deaths, the major cause of infertility in all farm
38 o Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture
animals, are also likely to be developed within major concern. An understanding of these funthis time frame. damental mechanisms is needed to provide a
Achieving these goals will entail the funding foundation for applying new technologies to the of research in three major areas: 1) the develop- development of products to improve the rate, ment of improved estrous cycle regulation efficiency, and composition of animal growth. techniques; 2) the development of improved The potential applications of genetic engitechniques for superovulation and embryo col- neering, cloning, and immunology for the imlection, storage, sexing, and transfer; and 3) the provement of growth in food-producing animals development of methods for reducing embryo are many. For example, recombinant DNA techmortality and improving fertility in all classes nology is responsible for providing sufficient of farm animals. quantities of bovine and porcine growth horVigorous pursuit of research in these areas mone so that scientists can now determine their could result, by year 2000, in the marketing of role, mode of action, and potential use when large numbers of genetically engineered em- administered to animals used for producing bryos containing genes that will improve fer- meat and milk. In the future, this kind of retility and fecundity and will result in improved search may also lower the cost of beef producrates of gain, improved carcass characteristics, tion by permitting small cows, which have lower increased milk production, and increased re- maintenance costs, to produce large market catsistance to diseases in offspring. Despite recent tle of desirable composition. It also seems likely spectacular breakthroughs in introducing human genes into laboratory animals, a great deal remains to be learned about the factors that control chromosomal integration of foreign DNA, the retention of that DNA during embryonic development, and ultimately the expression of DNA, without disruption of the formation and development of the embryo. These developments will affect the major drug companies, genetic engineering companies, equipment manufacturers, veterinarians, inseminators, and extension workers, as well as the Nation's farmers.
The ultimate goal of this research is to increase the efficiency of production so that fewer animals, and less input of labor will be needed to produce the needed animal products.
Regulatioa of Livestock
Growth and Development
The rate and composition of growth is a critical factor in determining the cost of producing livestock products (Allen, 1985). While much is known about genetic and nutritional variables that influence animal growth, much less
is known about the hormonal, cellular, and Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service metabolic mechanisms that determine how and Ultrasonic techniques to measure backfat may someday at what rate nutrients are partitioned into the provide data for evaluating fat and lean composition in growth of muscle, fat, bone, and the tissues of live animals during various stages of growth.
Ch. 2-Emerging Technologies for Agriculture o 39
that biotechnology will give rise to new prod- will depend on understanding the fundamental ucts that can alter the inherent mechanisms of principles or mechanisms involved in each mamuscle protein and adipose (fat) tissue accre- jor research area. tion so that the efficiency of meat production
will be improved by the conversion of more nu- Animal Nutrhlon
trients into lean meat and less nutrients into fat.
Such a development would be in keeping with The U.S. food animal industry is immense. the consumer demand for lean, but highly palat- Food animals provide 70 percent of the protein, able, meat at a reasonable cost, and with the 35 percent of the energy, 80 percent of the calmedical recommendations that the U.S. con- cium, 60 percent of the phosphorus, and signifsumer reduce the intake of calories from die- icant proportions of the vitamins and mineral tary fat. elements in the average human diet in the United
Other opportunities for advances involve the States (Pond, 1985). physical sciences. These include the need for The future of this industry will depend not more rapid, accurate, and economical ways of only on profitability, but also on the industry's maintaining the identity of animals through the adoption of new technology and on the industime of slaughter, and for determining the com- try's response to consumer concerns about cost, position of the living animal and its carcass. Im- esthetics, convenience, and health. Areas of nuproved methods of identifying mammalian meat trition research that may result in major adanimals would be a basis for a national record vances in animal food production and use in system. This system would benefit producers, the next 20 years include: 1) the relation of anipackers, regulatory agencies, and consumers, mal product consumption to human health, 2) since it could provide information concerned alimentary tract microbiology and digestive with marketing, carcass merit, disease, and resi- physiology, 3) voluntary feed intake control, 4) due-monitoring programs. maternal nutrition and progeny development,
A quick and accurate assessment of body com- and 5) aquaculture. position not only would improve livestock pro- Many consumers are concerned about the efduction data and marketing procedures, but fect on human health of consuming animal food would be an example of now technology that products because of the amount and composicould also be used to address human concerns tion of fat in those products as well as the about body weight and obesity. Current proce- amount of sodium, nitrates, and potentially dures used for determining body composition harmful bacteria or chemical residues. Studies in livestock are too slow, inaccurate, or expen- have suggested strong links between some of sive for adoption by the industry. As a result, these factors and human cancer, osteoporosis, the real value differences between animals of and cardiovascular disease. Research on-line low and high carcass merit, as affected by fat is addressing these concerns by applying nucontent, are normally not fully realized in the tritional and genetic principles to the improvemarket when animals are sold alive. ment of animal food products. For example,
The implications of applying these kinds of changes in animal fatty acid composition will be possible by using "protective" feed additives
technologies for improving the production effi- in specific animal diets. Changes in total aniciency, composition, and consumer cost of ani- mal fat content will probably occur through mal products are numerous. They include the energy restriction, nutrient partitioning, and more efficient use of livestock feeds, possible genetic selection. Sodium content of animal changes in crop production priorities, improved products can be reduced at the processing stage. composition of animal food products, improved
production practices from more complete ani- The direct impact of advances in this area will mal records, and implications related to human be animal food products that are safer for huhealth. The application of these technologies man health. The indirect impacts maybe great-
40 Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture
er, however: to produce such products, produc- reproductive inefficiency, neonatal death losses, ers may have to switch to more pasture, forage, or mastitis. Other losses relate to the change in and nonconventional feed resources. Such ad- structure of livestock enterprises to a system justments could change the total profile of agri- that has both fewer farms and a greater concenculture. tration of animals per farm. For example, dairy
Research into factors controlling voluntary operations of up to 5,000 milking cows, and feed intake and nutrient partitioning will result poultry operations of 100,000 or more birds, are in the diversion of the use of nutrients from body tion unlitel intn.I heelagroductino nifciu imaintenance to lean tissue growth and other tinutshenrocinofaifciusdproductive functions. Such methods will save ease can have devastating consequences. feed and provide opportunities for alternative The technologies that show the greatest promuses of feed resources. ise for improving management schemes and
More complete knowledge of maternal nutri- controlling disease are: 1) data management and tion in relation to fetal survival and prenatal and systems analysis, 2) rapid diagnostic tests, 3) postnatal development may lead to significant selection for disease-resistant strains of liveincreases in the amount of edible product per stock, 4) genetic engineering of micro-orgabreeding unit. This outcome will be translated nisms and embryos, and 5) immunobiology. into savings in labor and resource use. Computers and computer programs already
Finalyaquculurehasemegedas an im- allow the farm manager to assess the well-being Firtnly aquaedoaalarculture has emege of each animal in large production units. Data United States. Research into specific nutrient on feed consumption, vaccination records, and requirements for different species of fish dur- conception dates, for instance, can be stored ing all phases of the life cycle, and interactions in the computer and retrieved quickly by the
betwen utrtionl rquiemens ad wter manager or veterinarian. Such systems can be environment, will provide new technology that coid nt each tanimlmt in5t1ears usucht will make the industry more competitive in ani- idnfyecaimlWthn5o10ersuh mal agriculture. Future growth of private aqua- systems will be widely used by progressive aniculture will provide an additional supply of edi- mal producers. ble fish and shellfish for consumption by the Advances in biotechnology will include furU. S. population, whose per capita appetite for ther development of animal-side test kits for animal products may be saturated. rapid assessment of animal health. One of these
tests, the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay,
can test for hormones (to determine pregnancy),
Animal Disease Control detect drug residues in milk or feed, and diagDiseases of livestock are the greatest single nose disease (through antibody detection). If deterrent to the efficiency of animal production economical tests can be developed, their use will (Osburn, 1985). Together, animal health-related be widespread and immediate (5 to 10 years). problems and the resulting inefficiencies in re- For certain intractable health problems, like production limit the productive capacity of live- parasites and mastitis, efforts are being made stock enterprises to 65 to 70 percent of their po- to breed disease-resistant strains of livestock. tential. Although major epidemic diseases such Advances in embryo transfer, gene insertion as foot-and-mouth disease and tuberculosis have into embryos, and amplification of gene prodbeen eradicated or controlled, an estimated $17 ucts will increase the number of more desirabillion or more annually is lost in production ble offspring by year 2000. because of a variety of infectious diseases, par- Recombinant DNA technology is already beasites, toxins, and metabolic disorders. ing used to alter vaccines genetically so that Some of these losses result from a lack of un- pathogens in the vaccines cannot replicate in derstanding of animal health problems, such as the inoculant and cause a mild infection that
Ch. 2-Emerging Technologies for Agriculture 41
could spread to other animals. The development sanitation, and waste management for fly conof vaccines for several viral diseases, such as trol at feedlots and dairies); and use of pestbluetongue, should be possible in the next 15 resistant breeds in cross-breeding programs (Inyears. dian crossed with European cattle).
Finally, knowledge gained in the past two dec- For blood-feeding insects research is directed ades is being used to improve that system's effi- at developing slow-release technology, whereby ciency. Ingredients (adjuvants) in vaccines are a chemical ingredient is formulated into a mabeing used to pace the release of antigens into trix that slowly erodes or vaporizes to release the body or to manipulate or favor certain im- insecticide. For example, insecticide boluses are mune responses. In addition, monoclonal anti- used in the stomach of animals, where they bodies are being used to detect and prevent dis- slowly release insecticide that destroys manureease. The major constraints to the use of these developing fly larvae. Insecticide can also be technologies include: 1) funding of field studies, implanted in an animal's body. Eartags impreg2) commercialization of products by the biologi- nated with a slow-release insecticide have been cal and pharmaceutical industries, and 3) cum- very effective for horn fly control and have imbersome and expensive processes for assuring proved face fly control in cattle. As the insectiquality. The benefits of controlling disease will cide vaporizes, it spreads over the haircoat of be a decrease in the cost of production for the the animal, destroying in 'sects that rest or feed farm operator and a decrease in food cost for on the animal. (However, horn fly resistance the consumer. to the pyrethroid insecticides used in eartags
has become widespread.) The newest of these
Livestock Post Control technologies are implants that directly release
Majo inectpess cuseloses o lvesock insecticide into the bloodstream, destroying ajoruinsectfpestsausenlossesbtolivesoCkmp blood-feeding insects. However, implants and andpltr 8)Sofmoe etan $2.5abillio (Camp-oo boluses will have a limited effect for migratory,
bel, 185) Soe isecs, rimril th blod blood-feeding insects unless many producers feeders, are pests of all warm-blooded animals. ji h oto fot Others are host-specific, although related spe- ji h oto fot cies may prey on several classes of livestock. Recombinant DNA technologies will be used Losses may be direct, in terms of decreased live- for the molecular cloning of desired antigens, stock products; or indirect, in the form of insect- toxins, enzymes, or other biologically importransmitted disease, secondary infections, pre- tant molecules for use as research tools or in disposition to other diseases, irritation that the development of vaccines for bluetongue, causes unthriftiness, and costs of insect control. anaplasmosis, and other diseases for which inNew echoloy, prtiulaly or lvesockin- sects are vectors. In addition, this technology Newtecnolgyparicuarl fo liestck n- will enhance the study of molecular genetics sects that are difficult to control, will be more and metabolic control in Bacillus thuringienexpensive and will have a lower cost-benefit ra- sis, a bacterium pathogenic to some insects. tio than that of current technology. Progress in
new technology in the science of veterinary en- Advances in genetics will allow scientists to tomology is relatively slow for the same reason manipulate the reproductive capabilities of pest that adaptation of existing technology is slow- species. These advances include the sterile inthere are few scientists (60) doing research. Sev- sect release method and chromosomal transeral technologies show promise for controlling location, among others. insect pests of livestock, however. If technology already available were used on
Although animal producers will continue to a wider scale, livestock losses from insects could use insecticides for the immediate future, prog- be reduced by one-third ($700 million). This outress is being made in such areas as habitat man- come would entail at least a doubling of curagement (pasture rotation and brush control for rent extension efforts in livestock entomology. ticks); integrated pest management (biocontrol, The new methodology discussed might reduce
42 e Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture
losses by another 15 to 25 percent, but at a lower nance designs of heat exchangers and solar heatcost-benefit ratio. ing systems will affect further energy savings.
Either too much or too little environmental
Environment and Animal Behavior stimulation can have deleterious effects on the
The effects of environment on animal well- performance, health, and well-being of agriculbeing have become ever more important be- tural animals. To optimize total stress, more cause of the trend toward production systems must be learned about how stress acts on and that confine a large number of animals together is perceived by animals. Devices that animals in a more artificial environment (Curtis, 1985). can use to regulate certain environmental facConfinement simplifies the environment, reduc- tors are already being recommended to farmers. ing an animal's opportunities to alter its sur Computerized sensing devices and control
rouning to dvatag. Whle uch ntesiv equipment will make biofeedback-linked autosystems increase production per unit of labor amatio ofgeniutrnentlrgltonaraiyi input or space, they can be detrimental to ani- anmlgrctue mal function and performance. Researchers are also investigating how the
The advent of intensive production systems environment influences specific mechanisms changed the relative importance of various envi- of immunity to disease. A variety of common
ronentl fctos a wel a th stateiesfor environmental stressors-temperature, crowdironga faimral production throughatheiappfi- ing, mixing, weaning, limit-feeding, noise, and cipong ftcnomloy.in thnolgite alil movement~ restraint-are known to alter anictno f m ergeby gy Naaeultefcurntoreslierc mals' defenses against infectious agents. New liere in the 0 ar asasl of enry cservtn optimi-h techniques in basic science, coupled with more zi n ofe taess, stnress-aleredton disser- traditional neurobiological, endocrinological, saitnce and htotatesru-laton d ofphsological and immunological approaches, can yield a betphetnoe n.htrglt o hsooia ter understanding of how stressors influence
phenoena.regulatory signals among lymphoid cell subFeed and fuel-sources of energy-account populations. for much of the cost of animal production. Al- Threuainolgtisfpricarnethough the trade-offs between feed and fuel have e reguimlpoution fhlighteis of pariulritrbeen quantified for most species, the integra- etind anaeen productioed dveo pototion of additional research will result in further pidsr m0ansagen revoltiomned he poul energy savings. For example, environmental intry 40fiemn yeara.Lhtis managd in pul-e temperature management schemes developed ptry oementh peat swo thae th iuaesin an era of cheaper fuel are too luxurious today. poutryo growth.ith laasttwgee the ef-o Animal producers tend to maintain constant fee ctsohotopterid managheendtiave alo environmental temperatures for their stock, beeng chreredt f sheepa reprducton aleven though the animals evolved in the cycli- thoug thie raeults ofsla tdeitiveso catecal thermal environment of nature. In one ex- aswie have been lessagng deiie ometroleperiment, when young pigs were allowed to reg- slgtigos hab en e ou ainer controlledow ulate their own environmental temperatures, yilhing sows wekand havier geat,. cows they inserted a daily 200 F fluctuation of warm yeiet moe milknd lambres gilrwuc fasterafternoons and cool nights, resulting in un- pmntsiwn imdaeyprrslill poducinfpochanged pig performance but a 50-percent reduc- mation.imdaeyapiabet nmlpo tion in fuel use during cold weather. Lowering dcin thermostat settings to parallel age-dependent Crop Residues and Animal Wastes changes in thermal requirements has also been
found to save fuel. In some cases cooler sur- Improved use of crop residues and animal roundings spur appetites, so performance ac- wastes represents a tremendous potential for tually increases. Cost-effective, low-mainte- more efficient use of resources (Fischer, 1985).
Ch. 2-Emerging Technologies for Agriculture @ 43
Livestock on U.S. farms produce about 55 mil- residues are completely tilled into the soil, they lion tons of recoverable manure. Approximately have significant value in maintaining soil struc363 million tons of crop residues are produced ture and nutrient content. However, useful annually in the United States. Several technol- amounts of residues maybe removed from fields ogies and major lines of research and develop- in many parts of the United States where ment exist in this area: 1) energy from manure, cropland slopes are gentle and residue density 2) animal feed from manure, 3) chemicals from is high. The cost of transporting bulky crop crop residues, and 4) animal feeds from crop residues generally constrains the area over residues. which collection is economically feasible.
The high volume of manure production that Several technologies under development have occurs at many large feedlots and dairies is an prmsinaeswreeideclctoiscopportunity in disguise. Manure has value both promisell inaeasiwer Residuecollectin isokco
as sol aditveandas sorc ofenegy or down into their component parts by mechaniheat and electricity. Traditionally, manure has cal, chemical, or biological processing, or a combeen either applied to the soil surface in an un- biaonfalthe.Tepncalomnns
Applicai onm of manurse tof the soi sufaea of crop residues are lignin, hemicellulose, and goon. Apiainomauetthsolsrce cellulose. Lignin can be used to produce solvents
creates environmental problems in many areas such as benzene, toluene, and xylene. Hemiceland results in a loss of up to 90 percent of the lulose is readily converted into furfural, which ogyfu isrvailablue ofc the manure. beolth is, in turn, a feedstock for the production of nuogy s aailale o ijectthemanre blowthe merous chemicals. Plastic films and fibers and soil surface, resulting in only a 5-percent loss the simple sugar, glucose, can be produced from of nitrogen (Suttan, et al., 1975). cellulose. Production of these chemicals is likely
Large farms may benefit from installing an- to require moderately large-scale technology aerobic digesters to produce methane from ma- based on industrial processes and equipment. nure, for use as a heating fuel or as a substitute Transportation costs reduce the likelihood that for propane in electric generators. The slurry crop residues will be used as feedstock for inthat remains after digestion contains most of dustrial processing. Some farms may adopt dithe original nutrient value and may be applied rect combustion of crop residues for use as a to cropland as fertilizer. Injection of the slurry source of heat for grain drying. is preferred, since most of the nitrogen after
digestion is in the form of ammonia. In the near term, the most likely process for
In many farm operations, it is profitable to conversion of crop residues is biblogical: rumiprocess manure and use it as a source of non- nant animals. Most crop residues can be fed protein nitrogen and fiber in cattle and dairy directly to ruminant animals as a source of cow rations. Manure is a low-cost source of nu- roughage. A substantial potential exists for detrietsand eusng i asfeedredces he ol- veloping technologies to increase the palatabilumienof anima wausnt tat must epcesedl ity and digestibility of crop residues. Numerore dsose of.ma Ifasted forhatmut feed manrese ous efforts have been made to develop simple mus irst e oncentrted, foate preed byur mechanical and chemical pretreatments, with heat ftre en rtd ornpocse byening some success. The problem is difficult, owing
heattretmen orby esilng.to the degree with which the digestible hemicelUsing crop residues as a source of chemical lulose and cellulose are bound to the nondigestfeedstocks and animal feed involves some com- ible lignin component in the residues of mature plex trade-offs in most areas because crop resi- cash grain crops. Additional research and dedues are becoming widely valued for their abil- velopment leading to economic and effective ity to reduce soil erosion in combination with pretreatments would have substantial benefits conservation tillage practices. Even when crop because the size of this resource is so large.
44 Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture
Plant Genetic Engineerimg the immediate impacts of biotechnology will be
Biotechnology is not new to plant agriculture greater for animal agriculture, the long-term im(Fraley, 1985). Plant breeding, agrichemicals, pacts may be substantially greater for plant and microbial seed inocula have made major agriculture. The potential applications of biotechnology on plant agriculture will include contributions to the remarkable development microbial inocula, in vitro plant propagation of American agriculture. Within the last dec- methods, and genetic modification. ade, major advancements have been made in the understanding of gene function and archi- Microbial Inocula tecture, and powerful methods have been developed for identifying, isolating, and modify- Research on plant-colonizing microbes has ing specific DNA segments. led to a much clearer understanding of their role
The further application of biotechnologies in in plant nutrition, growth stimulation, and disease prevention, and the possibility exists for plant agriculture could modify crops so that they their modification and use as seed inocula. Rhiwould make more nutritious protein, resist in- zobium seed inocula are already widely used sects and disease, grow in harsh environments, to improve nitrogen fixation by certain plants and provide their own nitrogen fertilizer. While (legumes). Extensive study of the structure and regulation of the genes involved in bacterial ni/ trogen fixation will likely lead to the development of more efficient inocula. Two years ago, scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, genetically engineered icenucleation bacteria that inhibit frost formation in potato plants. To form ice, there must be nucleation sites around which the water molecules can form the regular ice structure. In the ecosphere, this role is performed by specialized bacpt teria called Pseudomonas syringae, which contain specific proteins that act as the nucleation centers for the growth of ice crystals. By coloniz...ing plants in the manner of epiphytes' these bacteria induce ice formation and thus cause frost damage to plants as the temperature drops below freezing (Feldberg, 1985).
Scientists constructed a new strain of bacteria in which the nucleation protein is absent or altered so that the bacteria can no longer play the role of nucleation centers. Having successfully constructed a new strain of bacterium, these researchers were ready to field test this new organism to see if it would outcompete the normal strains. If so, the new bacterium would protect crops from frost damage, and millions of dollars in lost crops would be saved. As the
Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service
Plant geneticist is determining the structure of a soybean DNA segment that resembles the movable genetic 'Plants that derive their moisture and nutrients from the air elements first discovered in corn. Each band represents and rain and that usually grow on another plant. Spanish moss a "letter" or nucleotide, in the genetic code. is an epiphyte.
Ch. 2-Emerging Technologies for Agriculture 45
novel bacteria were scheduled for release to the Plant Propagation field, a coalition of public interest groups filed Cell culture methods for regenerating intact a lawsuit to postpone the field trials (see chapter 10 for more detailed discussion about this plants from single cells or tissue explants are being used routinely for the propagation of sevcontroversy). eral vegetable, ornamental, and tree species
(Murashige, 1974; Vasil, et al., 1979). These Recently, Monsanto announced plans to field methods have been used to provide large numtest genetically engineered soil bacteria that pro- bers of genetically identical, disease-free plants duce naturally occurring insecticide capable of that often exhibit superior growth and more uniprotecting plant roots against soil-dwelling in- formity over plants conventionally seed-grown sects (House Committee on Science and Tech- (figure 2-5). Such technology holds promise for nology, 1985). The company developed a genetic important forest species whose-long sexual cyengineering technique that inserts into soil bac- cles reduce the impact of traditional breeding teria a gene from a micro-organism known as approaches. Somatic embryos produced in Bacillus thuringiensis, which has been regis- large quantities by cell culture methods can be tered as an insecticide for more than two dec- encapsulated to create artificial seeds that may ades. Plant seeds can be coated with these bac- enhance propagation of certain crop species. teria before planting. As the plants from these buds grow, the bacteria remain in the soil near the plant roots, generating insecticide that protects the plants. OEmbryos reproduced asexually from body cells.
Figure 2.5.-Plant Propagation- From Single Cells to Whole Plants
The process of plant regeneration from single cells in culture
Cell multiplication Cell wall removal
Desired plant cc
Leaf Exposure to
selection pressure, 0
e.g., high salt 0
Virus-free Roots and ,
Field performance tests tt?@ 6
go on to form callus
SOURCE: Office of Technology Assessment.
46 e Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture
Genetic Modfication regardless of normal species and sexual barriers
Three major biotechnological approaches- (figure 2-6). For example, it has been possible
cellculure eletio, plnt reeingandge- to introduce storage protein genes from French nc clengeeion,r pilanto reedig an ge-o bean plants into tobacco plants (Murai, et al., nipct engineepring-retioel to have pan ajories 1983) and to introduce genes encoding photoimpat o theprouctin o newplat vaietes, synthetic proteins from pea plants into petunia The targets of crop improvement via biotech- plants (Broglie, et al., 1984). nology manipulations are essentially the same as those of traditional breeding approaches: in- Transformation technology also allows the increased yield, improved qualitative traits, and troduction of DNA coding sequences from virreduced labor and production costs. However, tal n oreit lns rvdn hs
aceaethe at endy ofr imeproveents t sequences are engineered with the appropriate bceondt tht posibe b yp trdtona bmreeng. plant gene regulatory signals. Several bacterial
beynd hatposibl b trditona bredig. genes have now been modified and shown to Of the various biotechnological methods that function in plants (Fraley, et al., 1983; Herreraare being used in crop improvement, plant ge- Estrella, et al., 1983). By eliminating sexual barnetic engineering is the least established but the riers to gene transfer, genetic engineering will most likely to have a major impact. Using gene greatly increase the genetic diversity of plants. transfer techniques, it is possible to introduce This technology will have a major impact on DNA from one living organism into another, the seed and plant production industries as well
Figure 2-6.-Gene Modification -Insertion of a Desired Gene Into the Host Plant Through Vectors (or gene taxis)
// \ Bacteria
infect host plant
SOURCE: Office of Technology Assessment.
Ch. 2-Emnerging Technologies for Agriculture 47
as on the chemical, food processing, and phar- Plants vary in their efficiency of photosynthemaceutical industries. sis. Higher plants have an enzyme (RuBP carThe commercialization of plant biotechnol- boxylase) that causes oxygen to react in a side ogy will require breakthroughs in several tech- reaction during photosynthesis, diverting ennical areas, including increased understanding ergy that would otherwise be used to fixate carof plant cell culture, plant transformation sys- bon dioxide. This oxygenase reaction, which tems, plant gene structure and function, the appears to result from a metabolic defect in
idenifiatin o agonomcaly uefu gees, plants, is encouraged by the high-oxygen, lowidenifiatin o agonomcaly uefu gees' carbon dioxide concentration of normal air. Arand plant breeding. Increased research fund- tificially increasing the content of carbon diing is needed in these specific areas and gener- oxide in the air partially suppresses this mechally in the basic plant sciences and in molecu- anism and generally results in increased crop lar biology to accelerate technical development. yed.Ti ugssta mrvmnsi h Commercialization of plant biotechnology will yields.aTism suggestsnthi impolement in also depend on other factors, including envi- mnceaneils f l photsnthesisg coul.euti ronmental regulation, university-industry rela- inraeyelsalesebngqu. tions, economic incentives, and consumer ac- Plants known as C, plants have developed a ceptance. biological and morphological modification that
Improved plants produced by gene transfer reduces the impact of the oxygenase reaction.
metodsshold e cmmecialyavailable in As a result, they waste less energy during pho7 to 10 years. The introduction of plants toyhei.Cplnsncueorogum produced and selected using cell culture manip- sugarcane, and millet. Plants that cannot supulations and certain biotechnology-derived mi press the oxygenase reaction are called C, crobial seed inocula or products could occur pans rice nld hasobasotn earlier.anrie
Plant genetic engineering methods will ini- C, plants have an advantage over C, plants
tialy ephaize he ametarets or ropim- when leaf temperatures are high and a disadvanprovement (increased yield, improved qualita- tage when they are low. Moreover, C, plants tive traits, and reduced labor and production toe snithoes Thus water use efficieny couldhbe costs) as traditional breeding programs do. Ulti- toyhei.Tuwarusefcenyoldb mately, the technology will lead to improve- increased in warm, arid regions if more C, ments not even imagined in American agri- plants could be used. culture. A long-term prospect for improving photosynthetic efficiency lies in research to understand
the basis for the oxygenase reaction and efforts
Enhancement of to inhibit the reaction chemically or to modify
Photosynthetic Efficiency the enzyme by using rDNA technology. Success
will depend on many breakthroughs in underPhotosynthesis is the fundamental basis for standing the chemistry and molecular biology plant growth (Berry, 1985). Through photosyn- of chloroplasts and in manipulating chloroplast thesis, energy from sunlight is absorbed by genes. chlorophyll-containing tissues of the plant and Molecular biology has already yielded the abilused to assimilate carbon dioxide into organic iyt oiytesqec faioaisi
molecules. The photochemical reactions in the ityP tomoiyls th sequce ofino acisins process are intrinsically very efficient. How- RuB ae roxyas to produce modifimedtversions ever, several factors inhibit photosynthetic effi- of theiprotin.ehi poves exerietan tol ciency in plants: 1) certain mechanisms of pho- ofchunismezmaginedapower forneatinsth tosynthesis itself, 2) the efficiency of water and mehnssoezy -ctledrain. nutrient use, and 3) environmental stress. Re- Other research is being directed at improving search is ongoing in each of these areas. the efficiency of use of water and nutrients
48 s Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture
through: 1) better management techniques that use microcomputer-based plant growth models, and 2) new instrumentation to monitor crop performance. Improved weather forecasting will also be important. Breeding plants for efficient water and nutrient use and for stress resistance is possible and has already had some impact. These technologies have the greatest immediate prospect for improving the efficiency of photosynthesis in the next decade, although a strong research effort is needed to realize these potentials.
Plant Growth Regulators
Plant growth regulators are natural or synthetic compounds that are applied (usually directly) to a plant to alter its life processes or structure in order to improve quality, increase yields, facilitate harvesting, or any combination of these (Nickell, 1985). Used commercially since the 1920s, plant growth regulators have had a variety of impacts. One of their earliest was in rooting powders and solutions for the propagation of cuttings. Another was the use of maleic hydrazide to prevent sprouting in potatoes and onions during storage.
The biggest boost to plant growth regulation came with the discovery that phenoxyacetic acids kill broadleaved plants (such as weeds) but not grasses. Using such chemicals in herbicides has out distanced economically all other uses of plant regulators and, until recently, dwarfed their general importance.
Overall research on plant growth regulation is currently multipronged. Industrial research
is particularly directed at two major U.S. crops- Photo credit: John Gardner, Brigham Young University
corn and soybeans. Scanning electromicrograph of a developing wheat head
reveals vertebrae-like spikelets branching from its axis. An increasingly important research effort is By unlocking the hormonal secrets locked in the tissue of the spikelets, researchers hope to increase the number that for antidotes to herbicides. Called protec- of spikelets per head, and the number of kernel-producing tants, or safeners, such compounds can be ap- florets on each spikelet-thus increasing yield.
plied to the crop, usually to the seed, to make it resistant to an herbicide. When the herbicide Ethephon, which is used to prevent coagulation is applied to the crop row, it kills only the weeds. of latex flow in rubber trees, eliminates the need
USDA has used plant growth regulators so to tap the tree daily. Plant growth regulators of
successfully in the guayule bush that it may be the triethylamine type are used to increase the theoretically possible to have a rubber indus- total rubber content of the guayule bush. A simtry within the boundaries of the United States. ilar use of growth regulators is the use of para-
Ch. 2-Emerging Technologies for Agriculture 49
quat on pine trees. The result is a significant environmental limitations via plant growth regincrease in oleoresin content and the possibil- ulators should be a fertile field for investigation. ity that the naval store industry may take on new A substantial number of new products or new life in the Southeast United States.
uses for existing products can be expected in
The success in the sugarcane industry in the the 1990s. Because of the difficulty in registercontrol of flowering, in the use of gibberellic ing new compounds, many of the advances will acid to increase the tonnage of both cane fiber be extensions of uses of existing products. Since and sugar, and in the use of ripeners to enhance so much of the chemistry, evaluation, and exsugar yields allows industry to turn its atten- pensive toxicology has already been done on tion to developing dessicants for use as harvest existing products, finding new uses for those aids. products might well have a greater impact than
In the grape industry the successful use of gib- researching new compounds. berellins on grapes is stimulating studies on the
control of abscission (the shredding or separating of plant organs such as fruit or leaves) and Plant Disease and Nenmatode Control the use of ripeners to increase sugar content.
Abscission agents have been used successfully Plant diseases are caused by viruses, fungi, on cotton, oranges, cherries, and olives, where bacteria, nematodes, and other micro-orgait reduces the tenacity of the fruit sufficiently nisms (Browning, 1985). Collectively, these to allow easy harvest by hand-picking, mechan- organisms cause considerable losses before and ical harvest, or shaking. Abscission agents have after harvest, an estimated $18.6 billion annualso been used to thin apple blossoms, chang- ally. Only a few of the thousands of species of ing the yield pattern from alternating light- pathogens and insects cause concern, however; fruiting and heavy-fruiting years to annual, suc- the rest are controlled by natural immunity. cessfully bearing years. Many organisms that do cause loss may theoPlant growth regulators can reduce harvest- reticallybe controlled by managing more wisely ing costs by changing the shape of the whole the mechanism of host-plant resistance. This plant or just its fruit to allow easier mechanical area is a major one for research. harvesting. Apples, grapes, and wheat are ex- Some beneficial micro-organisms help proamples. Gibberellic acid is used with grapes, tect plants from disease. In addition to their for instance, to lengthen the pedicel to each nutritional benefits, nodulating bacterial and berry. This reduces the rotting that normally mycorrhizal (root-extending) fungi render some occurs because grapes grow too close together. plants more disease resistant. Micro-organisms The size and shape of both apples and grapes also provide a vast gene pool for improving can be changed by cytokinins and gibberellic plants and other micro-organisms through rDNA acid. technology. That technology is already availRegulators can also be used to speed or delay able for synthesizing microbes of naturally octhe maturation of fruit. Success has already been curring products for use as pesticides. Such genotable with navel oranges and with pineapple, netic engineering should lead to new biocontrol
chtablerie, offe, tats andac- agents; for example, modified plant viruses that peppers, cherries, coffee, tomatoes, and tobac- will give cross protection. One success story is co. In addition, the tremendous losses of food that of crown gall, a serious bacterial disease crops following harvest almost guarantees an of manywoody and herbaceous plants. Crown increase in research to develop preharvest and of many oo led b aceous the K84 postharvest preservation through plant growth gall is now controlled biologically by the K84 regulators. strain of bacterium that is a close relative of the
bacterium that causes the disease. Inoculating
Finally, preliminary indications with Cycocel a seed or transplant with K84 produces a bacand other chemicals suggest that overcoming teriocin that protects against crown gall.
50 Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture
quently been disappointing. Thus researchers have turned to minor-effect genes, which are more difficult to work with but are the most successful way of controlling disease in the homogeneous cultivars demanded by mechanized Western agriculture. Major-effect genes show promise for controlling disease in heterogeneous cultivars, as occurred with multiline oat and wheat cultivars developed in Iowa and 0-, Washington. Even highly epidemic foliar pathogens can be controlled in this manner. A major line of research may result in using resistance genes to obtain diversity without sacrificing bona fide needs (as opposed to merely cosmetic needs) for uniformity. This may be one of the fastest ways simultaneously to control certain highly epidemic diseases and to reap the tremendous potential benefits from plant genetic engineering.
Additional work is needed at all levels of pesticide development, but is especially needed for completing the development of systemic pesticides that have two sites of activity on the molecule, thereby extending the pesticide's effective life. Research is also needed on more effective delivery systems for systemic pesticides. Other research will be directed to developi.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service ing naturally occurring chemicals that will stimPhoto credit: Uulate the plant's defense mechanisms or enGolden nematode cysts (about 0.5 mm long) on the roots hance activity by biocontrol agents. Ultra-lowof a potato plant. volume delivery systems will be needed for these
and regular pesticides that are active at very low Other examples of biocontrol include using dosages.
disease-suppressive soils and pasteurizing the A final important area for research is that of soil to kill pathogens but not thermophilic (grow- crop loss assessment. Although it is possible to ing at high temperatures), beneficial microbes.
assess plant loss from single pathogens, weeds, In addition, some cultural practices (fertiliza- and arthropods (and a few combinations of tion, irrigation, and stubble and debris manage- these), such assessments are less precise when meant) can be refined to effect biocontrol. For made for larger areas, several cultivars, and a example, continuous cropping can be used to wide variety of plant stresses. Research to imallow antagonists to pathogens to increase, as prove crop loss assessment wil help set research in the control of potato scab. priorities and aid in making management deDisease-resistant cultivars can be bred and cisions. resistance-managed. Genetically, plant resistance is conditioned by major-effect genes and Ma gement of Insects and Mites minor-effect genes. Although major-effect genes are easier to work with and give more dramatic Insects and mites are humankind's greatest results, their effectiveness in the field has fre- competition for food and fiber (Kennedy, 1985).
Oh. 2-Emerging Technologies for Agriculture o 51
Although less than 1 percent of all insect and mite species are considered agricultural pests, those pests cause average annual losses to agricultural production of 5 to 15 percent, despite the expenditure of millions of dollars each year for agricultural pest control. Thus, protecting crops from such losses will continue to be an important component of agricultural production.
Research on this problem is being conducted in the broad areas of: 1) chemical controls for insects and mites, 2) genetic manipulation of plants and insects and their natural enemies, and 3) information processing.
Because they are highly effective, economical, and fast acting, chemical insecticides and acaricides (for mites) are widely used for reduc-A ing insect and mite populations to subeconomic levels. Advances in insect physiology, toxicology, and analytical chemistry are leading to the discovery of new compounds that disrupt the normal growth and development processes of insects. Compounds with juvenile hormone ac- Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service tivity that prevent an insect from molting to the A Mexican bean beetle I6rva-a devastating pest of snap adult stage, those with anti juvenile hormone and soybeans- becomes a meal for the spined soldier activity that cause insects to molt prematurely bug instead. The bug's pheromone may help farmers to the adult stage, and those that interfere with enlist its help in controlling many pest insects. the normal synthesis and deposition of exoskeleton all hold promise for the future. Similarly, ing ae otenzleiiaigtene advances in the chemistry of natural products gowaterktoithegnozzle, eliminatinglthenneed and the study of plant defenses against insects fore tanfoming.lOte searc wllnrl esrey and mites are leading to the identification of mreft unifrd rpie will imrv deeceontrol spray naturally occurring, insecticidal and acaricidal dt, eantilipov.deec o h pa
compounds with novel modes of action. Many tohepa. such compounds are likely to be suitable for Advances in genetic engineering greatly inlarge-scale production via fermentation proc- crease the likelihood of new classes of insectiesses with genetically engineered micro-or- cides and acaricides. Insect pathogens, includganisms. ing bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and viruses, are
With existing application technology only 25 likely candidates for genetic engineering to ento 50 percent of a pesticide is actually depos- hance their utility as microbial insecticides. The ited on plant surfaces, and less than 1 percent pathogenic bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis is actually reaches the plant. In addition to being already commercially available and widely used
wasefu, tissitatin gealy xacrbteun to control caterpillars on certain crops. Genetic daesirale effes iutotherenvironment. Onesfac- engineering holds great promise for expanding
tor is the incorrect mixing and calibration by tesetumoiesscntoldmytisbc pesticide applicators. Efforts are thus being teum made to design equipment that injects pesticides Crop varieties resistant to insect pests have at the proper rate directly into the lines carry- been used to manage insects with success in a
52 e Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture
number of important crops. Use of genetic engineering to transfer genes from resistant wild plants to crop cultivars holds great potential for insect and mite management, but requires very specific knowledge of the biochemical bases of the resistance crop to be transferred. In most cases, the requisite knowledge is not yet available. Improve ments in the design and availability of computer hardware and software will produce tremendous changes in insect and mite management at the research, extension, and 1
farm levels. To contribute to crop profitability, insect and mite management entails the processing of tremendous amounts of information on the condition and the phenological stage of the crop, the status of insects and mites and their enemies in the crop, incidences of plant diseases and weeds and measures used in their control, weather conditions, crop production inputs, and insect and mite management options. Computers at the farm level, with access to centralized databases, will allow farm operators to design and implement pest management strategiesP for their farms. Some software systems are already in place and are continually being im- ~
proved. In general, however, improvements in "
databases are awaiting advances in knowledge about pest dynamics and crop pest interactions. Photo credit: Hioward Berg, University of Florida
A scanning electron micrograph of a root tip from a BooiaNirgnFixation sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) plant with kidney bean
Biolgica Nitogenshaped bacteria (Azospirillum brasilense) on its surface.
Such nitrogen-fixing bacteria may live on the root surface Nitrogen is a critical nutrient for crop pro- or in the surrounding soil. The white, threadlike duction (Alexander, 1985). Although abundantly projections are root hairs.
available-either as atmospheric nitrogen (NJ) or in organic complexes in the soil-nitrogen in these forms cannot be used directly by plants. enter the roots of legumes and form nodules in It must first be changed to ammonia (NH.) or which they "fix," or convert, nitrogen in the air nitrate (NO,). Thus the large supply of nitrogen to forms used by plants. A legume may receive needed to grow crops is most commonly pro- all of its nitrogen needs this way, given the right
vided by nitrogen fertilizers. However, such fer- Rhizobium. In turn, the rhizobia are somewhat tilizers are expensive, and their production con- protected from microbial competition and presumes a nonrenewable resource, hydrocarbons. dation and from other detrimental effects in the
Nitrogen can also be provided through bio- soil environment.
logical nitrogen fixation, a process by which cer- Other kinds of nitrogen-fixing bacteria live tain bacteria and blue-green algae use an en- near cereal crops and grasses, possibly providzyme, nitrogenase, to convert N, to NH,. The ing small, beneficial amounts of nitrogen to the most important of these bacteria agriculturally plants and receiving needed organic compounds belong to the genus Rhizobium. These bacteria but no protection from detrimental effects in
Oh. 2-Emerging Technologies for Agriculture 53
return. This relationship is known as associa- Water and SeII.Water-P'ant tive fixation. Relations
If its magnitude can be increased, the proc- The distribution of vegetation over the Earth's ess of biological nitrogen fixation offers an at- surface is controlled more by the availability tractive way to supply the large nitrogen de- of water than by any other factor (Boersma, mand of crops without the extensive use of 1985). In the United States, agriculture accounts nitrogen fertilizers. To this end, considerable for over 80 percent of the water consumed; research has been done in the last decade on about 98 percent of that water is used for irrithe biochemistry and genetics associated with gation of crops, particularly in the more arid the process, and much useful information has Western States. Several factors complicate the been gleaned from this basic research. Research availability of water for irrigation: 1) cities, inis also under way to determine the possibility dustry, and farming are in fierce competition of developing cereal crops that fix their own for the water available; 2) ground-water sources nitrogen, and recent studies have provided are gradually being depleted; 3) the costs of needed approximations of the amount of nitro- pumping and distributing surface water are gen provided by associative fixation. gradually increasing; and 4) many surface and
To provide enough nitrogen biologically to groundwaters are being contaminated by a vasustain high crop yields, however, the stresses riety of pollutants. Thus techniques to conserve affecting legumes and rhizobia must be better adequate supplies of fresh water have become understood, and improved bacterial strains and important. other ways to overcome these constraints must Mn motn otiuin aebe
be found. These developments will come from mane y stimotnt cntribuioemns hav beens a combination of well-established techniques Adebyug tstudingwratrn reuiens ofpe crps.n and agronomic practices as well as new tech- Althogh hiservinfrmdatin hazs, hepe nolan nologies. For example, conventional strain se- nring eevoand canle sqizetenop for lection and genetic manipulation may be used baredn lanots with reloer requireentsogfor to produce strains of rhizobia that can compete water a o bevne reaed anud nol tehnliehs with soil micro-organisms or that can resist abi- hae benavne then15yats wolNelp alizerthis otic stresses such as pesticides, drought, and goals in te se 1ears.ceay all iomproe high temperatures. Plant breeding will be used imentse in rat n us nqe s effi cincy haeho e o to develop legumes that are better acclimated timped irrigcation oftehqes espeiofayther to soil conditions, have greater photosynthetic tielyd n application fth amontoftaterni activity and less photo respiration, can resist nieevaapplation i rnt anerlal thmii nodulation by less effective soil rhizobia in fa- mizes taevapin (t pesnt, nsimearlyalte vor of inoculated rhizobia, and can prolong the watse takenuph byd teaplranet s e im edately duration of fixation. Less likely to come to frui- passed tOug a eaprattio thcoes eafsrtion in this century, but of great importance, fce Ola' vermalln frctnrecoe) pr will be the development of cereals that can fix o h ln' emnn tutr. their own nitrogen in their tissues or root zones. Progress in improving the water use efficiency
If funding is adequate, greater nitrogen fixa- of crops will hinge on gathering the information from legume-bacterial symbiosis will be tion needed to develop a theoretical framework realized in the next 10 years, and that from the of the mechanisms that influence uptake, use, associative fixation of cereal roots will be real- and loss of water-in humid regions as well as ized in 15 years. The benefits of these and fu- arid and semiarid regions. Dramatic progress ture improvements will be the reduced use of in the development of instrumentation now perhydrocarbons for fertilizer production, an in- mits researchers to measure many plant physcrease in the availability of fertilizer worldwide, iological responses in real time. It also allows and less contamination of ground water. the recent measurements of plant hormones and
54 a Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture
K. obtained that tolerate 2 percent sodium chloA ride, a salt concentration lethal to nonselected
For the near term, however, traditional methods of plant breeding must be relied on, even though there is increasing evidence that for many crops the limits to improvement by this method are being approached. To break through this yield plateau, the breeder must work with the physiologist and biochemist to understand A the stress response hierarchy and eventually to
control enzymes, membrane characteristics, and mechanisms for communication in the plant.
The technologies available for immediate application are those that prevent losses in transport, particularly those for farm distribution of irrigation water. These include drip irrigation, below-ground distribution of water, deficit irrigation, water harvesting, time and frequency of application, and the forecasting of time and frequency of applications
Land is one agricultural resource that cannot be replaced. Thus a variety of methods and technologies have been developed to conserve soil while increasing yields. These land management technologies include conservation tillage, controlled traffic farming, custom-prescribed Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service tillage, multicropping systems, and organic California cotton fields are the testing grounds for this farming. laser-aligned traveling trickle irrigation system, which Cnevto ilg satlaeadpatn links traveling and trickle concepts to improve irrigation Cnevto ilg satlaeadpatn efficiency for row crops. Here, wheel towers-operating system that leaves 30 percent of the crop resilaterally from a concrete-lined irrigation canal- due on the soil after planting. The use of the
carry a water line across the field. various forms of this system has increased at over 13 percent annually from 1972 to 1982. The enzymes, which provide additional indications specific system used depends on local crops, of water stress. soil type, moisture levels, and pest infestation,
among other factors. Most conservation tillage Once the mechanisms of water use efficiency methods eliminate the use of the moldboard have been identified and a better understand- plow, using instead chisel plows or heavy disks ing of the plant as an integrated whole is gained, in conjunction with heavy-duty planting equipbiotechnology may help in the development of ment to cut through soil residues. Mulch-till
more water-efficient plants. Already, recent experiments suggest that tissue culture may pro- 7For more information on this area see the OTA study Watervide material less susceptible to water stress. Related Technologies for Sustainable Agriculture in U.S. Arid! For example, alfalfa and rice cell lines have been Semiarid Lands, 1983.
Ch. 2-Ernerging Technologies for Agriculture 55
Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service
Facilities at the National Tillage Machinery Laboratory include nine outdoor and two indoor soil bins for evaluating tillage and traction machinery concepts in various soil conditions.
equipment, for example, entails using wide passes over a field. Although primarily a resweeps and blades up to 30 inches wide to cut search concept, controlled traffic farming is horizontally several inches below the soil sur- practiced in the United States to the extent that face. The process loosens and aerates the soil, current machinery systems allow. providing a good seedbed while leaving residue Although it is also in the research stage of deon the soil surface (Battelle, 1985). velopment, custom-prescribed tillage is used in
Controlled traffic farming is a crop produc- some agricultural production systems. This aption system in which the crop zone and traffic proach to tillage integrates knowledge of soil lanes are distinctly and permanently separated, dynamics, machinery, climate, and crop prothus reducing the soil compaction that results duction economics, and entails making a prefrom large, heavy machinery making several scription for various components of the tillage
56 Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture
system. The specific machines to be used, as and the environment (Foster, 1985). Most crops well as the sequence and time of their use, is are grown on clean, tilled soil, leaving the soil defined in the prescription. exposed and unprotected. Severe erosion can
Multicropping is the practice of planting more result, and over time so much soil is lost that than one crop on a field during the same grow- crop yields decrease and some land may be ing season. Such crops can be grown sequen- forced from agricultural production. Excessive tally (double cropping) or simultaneously (inter- soil erosion is estimated to occur on about 30 cropping). For example, corn and soybeans can percent of U.S. cropland, but its effects on be grown in the same field in strips, reducing productivity are thought to have been masked soil erosion, using nutrients more efficiently, by new technological inputs like hybrids, ferand increasing crop yield. Currently available tilizers, and chemicals. machinery and practices are used to perform Soil erosion is the detachment of soil partithe field operations needed in multicropping. cles by the erosive effects of rain, surface runOrganic farming reduces or eliminates chem- off, and wind. When erosion removes soil more ical inputs in favor of more "natural," and sup- rapidly than it can be formed, soil becomes thinposedly safer, inputs. The products from this ner with less rooting depth for crops. When the method are sold to markets willing to pay a topsoil becomes thinner than the tillage depth, premium for the assurance that chemical fer- subsoil becomes mixed with topsoil during tilltilizers and pesticides have not been used in pro- age, degrading the soil. Erosion also removes duction. Organic farmers generally prefer to use the fine silt, clay, and organic particles most imfewer technological inputs than do conventional portant for good soil quality. The resultant infarmers, including lower levels of mechaniza- crease in sand content of the soil reduces the tion. They also derive their nitrogen require- soil's productive potential. Sediment from eroments from planting leguminous crops in rota- sion can create off-site problems through detion with nonleguminous crops and sometimes posits in road ditches, reservoirs, and river chanby adding animal manure. If this system were nels. Sediment or the chemicals it transports adopted on a large scale in the United States, can also pollute off-site air and water. the need for more mechanization technologies Four major lines of research on erosion conwould be reduced, with the exception of the area trol are proposed: 1) improved conservation of waste handling systems for livestock. farming systems, 2) improved methods for assessing erosion's impacts, 3) evaluation of the
No new or unique machinery is needed to fur- potential for restoring productivity to severely ther implement conservation tillage, multicrop- eroded soils, and 4) improved understanding ping, or organic farming. However, consider- of how to use public policy to encourage soil able interdisciplinary research will be needed conservation. to implement controlled traffic farming an
custom-prescribed tillage commercially. While Of all factors affecting erosion, crop residue these concepts have many perceived economic left on the soil surface is most effective in rebenefits, their true cost-benefit relationships ducing erosion. Research on improved consermust be evaluated for the wide variety of crops, vation systems will thus emphasize conservaterrain, soil types, and climate existing across tion tillage, including reduced tillage, minimum the United States. tillage, and no-tillage. These types of conservation tillage differ only in the amount of soil disSoil Erosion, Productivity, turbance and in the amount of crop residue left
and Tillage on the soil. When matched to soil conditions,
conservation tillage can potentially provide
The quantity and quality of harvested crops greater economic return and often equal or depend on the amount of land, the suitability greater yield than that of conventional tillage. of its soil for growing crops, the biology of crops, For example, no-tillage works well on well-
Ch. 2-Emerging Technologies for Agriculture a 57
Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service
Crop residue left on the soil surface is an effective way of reducing erosion. Here grain sorghum is growing in barley stubble.
drained, sloping soils but not on cool, poorly sion. Remote sensing technology and special drained soils in the Corn Belt. Although con- image processing equipment will aid in the colservation tillage has the fewest drawbacks of lection of data. New field studies have been iniall erosion control practices, considerable de- tiated and several mathematical modeling techvelopment of the method is still required. niques have been developed to evaluate the The degree of erosion's impact is a major is- effect of erosion on crop yield. sue that needs a conclusive answer. The prin- If eroded soils can reasonably be reclaimed, cipal tool used to estimate erosion by water is the problems of erosion may be less serious than the Universal Soil Loss Equation. The tool for presently thought. Current research in the Piedestimating wind erosion is the Wind Erosion mont region shows that conservation tillage and Equation. Recent developments in erosion the- multiple cropping (explained later) can be used ory and the availability of powerful, portable to restore productivity. Much research must still computers make possible new methods that are be done in this area. more detailed and more accurate for estimating erosion over a varied landscape, erosion Although several practices are available for from individual storms, and average annual ero- controlling erosion, many have drawbacks that
58 @ Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture
hamper adoption by farmers. As a result, vari- ing crops for intensive planting systems, underous policy alternatives are used and have been standing competition by plant species for growth suggested to provide incentives to farmers to factors, improving plant nutrition through ferimplement soil conservation. Improving the use tilizers and microbiology, and developing mechof public policy will entail the incorporation of anization for multiple cropping. major analytical tools into an integrated pack- Crop breeding for multiple cropping systems age compatible with affordable computer re- can lead to the development of crops that can sources. Such tools will include models for cli- endure the stress conditions found in multiplemate, erosion, water quality, crop yield, pests, species crop combinations. Varieties and hyand economics.
brids already exist that are well adapted to douThe major potential impact of this technol- ble cropping and reasonably well suited to reogy on agriculture will be significantly im- lay cropping, the planting of two or more crops proved erosion control with little loss, if not with an overlap of the significant part of the life gain, in crop yield, improved water quality, im- cycle of each crop. Further refinement is needed proved farmability, and increased profit. It is in developing new hybrids and in further sehoped that this technology will provide farm- lecting for adaptation. Results could be availing systems with enough positive benefits that able in 15 years. erosion control becomes a side benefit. The competition for growth factors by crops
Multiple Cropping that are grown together or sequentially is not
well understood. Such competition includes
Multiple cropping is the intensive cultivation that between two plants of the same species, of more than one crop per year on the same land between two crops of different species, and beso as to use land, water, light, and nutrients ef- tween crops and weeds. Competition has been ficiently (Francis, 1985). Double cropping, or studied in grass/legume mixtures for pasture the sequential planting of two crops, such as systems, and basic work on crop/weed compewheat in the winter and soybeans in the sum- tition gives insight on species interactions. Some mer, is the only pattern commonly used in the of the results and much of the methodology can United States. Intercropping, the simultaneous be applied to intercropping. Since existing vaculture of two or more crops in the same field rieties can be used for most preliminary work, at the same time, is popular with low-resource results could be available in 6 to 10 years. farmers. Multiple cropping entails a greater input of
Although widely used in the lesser developed nutrients or an alternative approach to plant nucountries by farmers with limited land and re- trition. Low-resource alternative cropping syssources, multiple cropping systems have not tems include rotations, minimum-tillage methbeen extensively explored for their applications ods, and use of low levels of fertilizers that do in this country. Yet, in addition to their efficient not disturb the biological balance in the soil. use of resources, intensive cropping systems Research on nitrogen fixation is an active area offer several other benefits: vegetative cover at present, but a basic understanding of plant through much of the year, which prevents ero- nutrition could take 10 to 15 years to develop. sion; the need for less fertilizer, owing to the Machines already available can be used for contributions of legumes in these systems-, and planting and for most other cultural operations. moderate to high potential yields that are sus- Through modifications of existing tillage, planttainable over time. ing, and cultivating equipment, the farmer can
Relatively little research attention has been accomplish multiple cropping. However, the depaid to these systems in temperate agricultural velopment of a combine that can harvest two regions. If such systems are to be widely adopted crops simultaneously is necessary for intercropin the United States, major new technological ping to have widespread applications. This advances maybe necessary in-four areas: breed- short-term objective could be achieved within
Ch. 2-Emerging Technologies for Agriculture 59
5 years, using expertise from the commercial New weed control technologies needed insector. clude: 1) improved chemical and biological
The principal impacts from multiple cropping methods, 2) allelopathic chemicals to bioreguwill be reduced production costs and increased late weeds, 3) crop cultivars with improved toloutput per year from a given unit of land. The erance to herbicides and the discovery of the oututer yetarfoab giveof production and the re- nature of weed resistance to herbicides, and 4) greater sustainability o wo dto a the re- the development of improved IWMS for conserduction in energy use would lead to a more sta- vation tillage and for annual multicrop proble agricultural sector. duction.
Weed Control Development of selective herbicides has spearheaded the advances in weed control technolThe cost of weeds to agricultural production ogy during the last 30 years and will continue is one of the most expensive factors in crop pro- to be important in the foreseeable future. Maduction, amounting to more than $20.2 billion jor breakthroughs needed in this area include annually (McWhorter and Shaw, 1985). Losses a nonselective chemical to control vegetation caused by weeds include not only direct com- in fallow fields, more selective chemicals for petition of weeds to reduce crop yields, but also control of broadleaved weeds in dicotyledonreduced quality of produce; livestock losses; ous crops (e.g., cotton, soybeans), and a chemiweed control costs; and increased costs of fer- cal that can be applied postemergence for eftilizer, irrigation, harvesting, grain drying, fective contol of perennial weeds. There is also transportation, and storage. interest in control of weeds by bioagents, parWeeds can be defined as plants growing ticularly with native pathogens like fungi.
where they are not wanted. They range from trees and shrubs to grasses and even cultivated crop species. Volunteer corn, for example, is becoming an increasing problem in soybean production as more conservation tillage practices are being adopted.
In modern agriculture, weeds are controlled through integration of crop competition, crop rotation, hand labor, and biological, mechanical, and chemical methods into integrated weed management systems (IWMS). Since 1950, the use of mechanical power for weed control has increased 30 percent, and herbicide use has increased sevenfold. However, manual labor has decreased 40 percent. As a result of modern weed control technology, farming is now less )
physical and more technological.
Although significant progress has been made in developing new weed control technology, weeds continue to cause severe reductions in yield and quality. Weeds often limit expanded Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service use of conservation tillage and multicropping. Seed-killing methyl isothiocyanate kept crabgrass seeds New difficult-to-control weed problems develop (Digitaria sanguinalis) in flask on right from germinating. through ecological shifts and because more One week after the seeds were placed in flasks the
untreated crabgrass seeds in flask on left have germinated. established weeds develop increased tolerance The chemical degrades rapidly in the soil,
to herbicides. usually within a few days.
60 e Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture
The effectiveness of many herbicides is lrn- tion costs and an estimated 10 percent increase ited by soil activity; for example, some microbial in the cost of weed control. Increased use of conpopulations rapidly degrade certain herbicides, servation tillage will necessitate increased herlimiting the residual effects of the herbicides. bicide use in the next two decades. Advances in controlled-release technology
could aid in this and other problems by reduc- Commercial Fertilizers
ing volatility and rates of application, reducing
herbicide movement through the soil profile, The substantial use of commercial fertilizersincreasing crop selectivity, and reducing envi- about 50 million tons per year-is generally credronmental exposure. Also helpful is a class of ited with 30 to 50 percent of U.S. agrichemical protectant that slows the action of soil cultural production (Davis, 1985). Corn and micro-organisms, permitting more cost-effec- wheat are the most heavily fertilized crops.
tivecontol.Commercial fertilizers supply crops with one
Crops can be protected against the toxicity or more of the primary plant nutrients (nitrogen, of certain herbicides through chemical antidotes phosphorus, and potassium) in forms usable by called safeners, another class of plant protec- crops. Nitrogen and phosphorus are produced tant. When applied to seeds or soil, these chem- in the United States; most (about three-fourths) icals make an otherwise susceptible plant spe- potassium must be imported from Canada. Nicies tolerant to an herbicide without affecting trogen, phosphate, and potassium intermediates the weed control aspect of the herbicide. are produced in large plants and then shipped
Plants themselves release secondary chemi- to small plants for combination into final products. cals during metabolism that can be toxic to other Although expenditures for research and deplants. Such allelopathic chemicals are being velopment (R&D) in fertilizer technology are less studied for their potential use in weed control. than 10 percent of that for the entire chemical industry (as a percent of sales), the R&D that
Developments in genetic engineering may al- exists is aimed at maximizing fertilizer effectivelow the availability of herbicide-tolerant crop nsmnmzn otadpoetn h ni
cultivars in agronomic crops in the next 10 to rnemnimznot.n rtcin h ni 15 years. Many weeds have evolved a tolerance rnet to herbicides. The availability of herbicide- At present, one-half of the nitrogen applied tolerant crop cultivars would permit the use of to the soil is lost to the plants through a variety herbicides at higher rates to reduce the evolu- of inefficiencies, some of which are still not tion of tolerance and would permit the use of understood. Several new types of nitrogen prodherbicides that were previously nonselective. ucts under development might improve effiFinalyresarcheffrtsnee to e icresed ciency of use. They include products with inhibFinalyresarcheffrtsnee to e icresed itors to decrease undesirable transformations to develop more effective IWMS. Basic ecolog- in the soil (nitrification and urease inhibitors), ical research is needed to understand weed Pop- prdcsoaefrcntledeese(g.th
shiftsninyweedcpopulationsecausedlbyecontrol sulfur-coated urea sold for turf and horticultural stehnlogy.pReseahois aseed bonwtol uses), and acidified products that decrease the uehrotatonal tiseageh to aido ine conolln te volatilization of ammonia (the reaction of urea
use otaiona tilageto id i cotrolingthe with mineral acids in the soil). In addition, the weeds that develop through several years of con- usofrephpatra-iichsht, servation tillage. Perennial weeds become par- use ouf uracposate urea-nitrilowclposrphate, hiae froem fer tonl reur o covearn- ment of fertilizer to seed without inhibiting gertioae tiredlage. res ortr tovn mination. Urea phosphate may also aid in retiona tilage.covering phosphorus, 80 percent of which is Improved weed control technology will re- unused by the plant and remains fixed in the sult in a slow but steady decrease in produc- soil in insoluble forms.
Ch. 2-Emerging Technologies for Agriculture 61
Other research is under way to decrease the ogy is especially geared to energy prices. The energy required to produce, transport, and ap- high cost of new facilities is also a deterrent to ply fertilizers. The escalation in oil prices fol- the adoption of technology. In many situations lowing the oil embargo spurred efforts to de- the industry will prefer to debottleneck or add sign new energy-efficient plants and to retrofit to existing plants to conserve capital. existing plants. In addition, several new urea
processes that have been announced will de- Organic Farming
crease production energy requirements by 25
to 50 percent. New phosphoric acid technology Organic farming uses many conventional also promises energy savings. To avoid depen- farming technologies but avoids, where possidence on oil or natural gas (the raw material ble, the use of synthetically compounded ferfor ammonia for nitrogen fertilizers), technol- tilizers, pesticides, growth regulators, and aniogy for the production of ammonia from coal mal feed additives (Liebhardt and Harwood, is in advanced stages of development. Finally, 1985). It relies on crop rotations, crop residues, efforts are being made to increase the nutrient animal and green manures, legumes, off-farm content of fertilizers so that the energy expended organic wastes, mechanical cultivations, minin transporting and handling will be decreased. eral-bearing rocks, and biological pest control.
Another area under development is that of Organic farmers tend to integrate their farmphosphate fertilizer production. Because re- ing techniques to a greater extent than convenserves of high-quality phosphate ore are being tional farmers do. depleted, researchers are attempting to use In the last 6 to 8 years, several studies have lower quality phosphate ore in fertilizers. Their compared organic farming with conventional efforts focus on removing the carbonate impur- farming. Although final conclusions must await ities in such ore and on determining what ef- more rigorous studies and a wider'sample of fect such impurities would have on the efficacy farms, preliminary conclusions show some inof phosphate fertilizers. teresting benefits of organic farming: first, yields
In reduced tillage agriculture, R&D efforts are per acre are generally equal to or only slightly directed at developing urea-nitric phosphate, less than those from conventional farming. urea with urease inhibitors, and urea phosphate Some organic farms have significantly higherand urea sulfate, all of which have the poten- than-average yields. Second, production costs tial to decrease ammonia loss from surface- are lower by a high of 30 percent and an averapplied urea. Also, new types of equipment are age of 12 percent, while energy inputs per unit being designed for precision placement of fer- produced are lower by 50 to 63 percent. Few tilizer and for simultaneous application of fer- or no insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides tilizer with seed. are used. Third, soil erosion is significantly reduced through various cultivation practices. AlNew developments in the industry evolve though organic farming maintains soil quality rather slowly because of the low level of R&D. better and reduces contamination of air, water, Therefore, any new technology that is likely to soil, and the final food products, much research be introduced by 1990-2000 would have to be is needed to determine just why organic pracunder development now. No revolutionary or tices have this effect and to determine how to radically new products or processes appear to maximize the integration of organic practices. be near commercialization. One of the most significant factors in reducThe future direction of energy prices will ing production costs and energy inputs in orprobably be the major factor affecting the com- ganic farming is nitrogen self-reliance. Many mercialization of new technology. Because the organic farmers increase nitrogen fixation in production of nitrogen, particularly ammonia their crops by seeding legumes between rows production, is the most energy-intensive oper- of grain crops during the growing season or afation for the industry, new nitrogen technol- ter harvest. Research is under way to breed
62 Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture
plants that fix nitrogen more efficiently or that be considerable. If farmers shifted to organic fix nitrogen longer in the season. By 1990, re- production, farms would be more diverse biosearch already on-line in this area should be well logically and economically, and the small farm developed, could remain economically competitive and
For weed control, cover crops are used in ro- ensure diverse, competitive food production tation; for example, sorghum crops are used to systems. suppress nutsedge. In addition, crop residues
are used in conservation tillage to suppress sensitive weed species. Much information about Communicaton and Information weed control should be available by 1990; how- Managemlet
ever, the technology for wide application of crop Technology for communication and informarotations will not be available for at least 5 to tion management helps farm operators collect, 10 years. process, store, and retrieve information that will
Organic farms appear to cycle nutrients more enable them to manage their farm so as to miniefficiently than conventional systems do. One mize costs, maintain and improve product qualreason is the reduction in erosion that occurs, ity, and maximize returns. There are three basic which allows better soil tillage and better main- components to such technology: 1) microcomtenance of productivity. Furthermore, some or- puter-based hardware systems for information ganic practices enhance the soil's ability to sup- processing, storage, and retrieval; 2) high-speed press disease. Scientists hope to identify the LANs for onfarm communication of digital inhelpful bacteria and bacterial byproducts in- formation; and 3) applications software. The volved in disease resistance and to harness them computer allows farm operators to keep track as biocontrol agents. of more detailed information, apply complex
Biocontrol agents are also used to control in- problem-solving techniques to this information, sects. One example is the tansy, an insect-repel- and thereby make better, more timely, decisions. lent plant that shows potential for controlling Microcomputers appropriate for onfarm use the Colorado potato beetle. Another example cover the range of business-class computers. is the use of an anti juvenile hormone, extracted Larger and more complex farm operations will from a common bedding plant, that induces pre- generally benefit from larger, more complicated mature metamorphosis in insects, shortening computer systems. Onfarm computers are likely their immature stages and rendering the adult to be subject to more adverse operating envifemales sterile. In 10 to 20 years, biological pest ronments than those found in typical nonfarm repellents will probably dominate the market businesses. Thus some additional equipment because of their safety for users, consumers, and and adaptations are needed for onfarm operathe environment. tions (Battelle, 1985).
Converting from conventional to organic While LAN technology is rapidly becoming
farming takes about 3 to 5 years, during which more mature and standardized, onfarm instalyield may initially be reduced. Some of this prob- lations are likely to be more expensive per node lem relates to the nitrogen content of the soil than the typical business system. Farm nodes and to weed pressure.8 However, detailed stud- are generally much farther apart than nodes of ies of holistic systems are needed to understand the average office system. Farm installations better the extremely complex changes in nutri- placed among several separate buildings are ent flow in soil during organic and conventional also more susceptible to lightning-induced elecfarming. The potential impact of such studies trical problems. Photoelectric isolators at every on U.S. agriculture in the next 10 years could node will enable use of copper wiring between nodes. Alternately, use of LANs with fiber op8This can be minimized by selecting the correct crops and struc- i
turing the production system to avoid nutrient deficiency or weed ti cabling will eliminate problems from elecproblems. tromagnetic interference.
Ch. 2-Emerging Technologies for Agriculture 63
of those assets and productive potentials that the operator chooses to consider fixed. Such software would give operators much greater ability to maximize income and flexibility in planning for growth and in responding to changes in the economic and technical environment.
Monitoring and Control Technology
Many processes in plant and animal production may be monitored and controlled by new and emerging electronic technologies. In some cases these devices are designed simply to detect certain conditions and report the information to the farm operator. In other cases, the technology operates essentially autonomously, without operator attention. Devices of this nature Photo credit: Dr. S.L. Spahr, University of Illinois are usually programmable, can operate continuExample of microcomputer-based system for onfarm use. ously, can be designed to be very sensitive to This system collects, processes, stores, and retrieves changes in target variables, and can respond information to control computer feeders and
electronic milk flow meters. very quickly. These devices, therefore, offer improvements in speed, reliability, flexibility, and
Many software packages sold for use on farm accuracy of control, and sometimes reduce computers are general-purpose packages that are identical to those used in other businesses. Spreadsheet programs and database management systems fall into this category. Other packages have only minor modifications and upgrades. The most expensive class of software is generally that written for specialized applications. Few farms are large enough to afford custom programming for their own operations. The range of specialized applications programs that have been developed and are being developed by extension personnel at land grant colleges is quite large. Agricultural software from commercial sources and the land grant institutions is generally task-specific.
Another promising software concept is that of a fully integrated system that would allow the farm operator to simulate the outcome of small and large changes in production practices. Photo credit: Dr. S.L. Spahr, University of Illinois
The software could generate distributions of Electronic animal identification unit around cow's neck
prices and weather impacts and simulated bio- with automatic dispensing grain stall in background. Cow
logical growth functions. It could produce de- goes into stall, is identified electronically, and has grain tailed listings showing expected costs, returns, dispensed to her automatically. Using computer controls, the feed dispensed is individualized to provide each production schedules, cash flows, and net in- cow a different amount of feed and a different protein
come streams, working within the constraints percentage based on her nutrient needs
64 Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture
labor requirements (Battelle, 1985). Some applications of this technology include irrigation control, pest monitoring and control, and the automatic animal identification and feeding system in livestock operations.
Positive identification of animals is necessary in all facets of management, including recordkeeping, individualized feed control, genetic improvement, and disease control. All animals could be identified soon after birth with a device that would last the life of the animal. The device would be readable with accuracy and speed from 5 to 10 feet for animals in confinement and at much greater distances for animals in feedlots or on pasture. Research on identification systems for animals has been in progress for some years, especially for dairy cows. For example, an electronic device now used on dairy cows is a low-power radio transponder that is worn in the ear or on a neck chain. A feed-dispensing device identifies the animal by its transponder and feeds the animal for maximum efficiency, according to the lactation cycle and the life cycle of that animal. This technology also permits animals in different stages of production to be penned together yet still be fed properly.
The largest potential use of electronic devices
in livestock production will be in the area of Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service reproduction and genetic improvement. Estrus Fifteen center-pivot sprinklers, all operated by a master in dairy cows can be detected automatically by computer, "rain" water onto 150 to 210 acres of corn per using sensors that remotely detect small changes pivot at the Condon Ranch near Sterling, Colorado. in the body temperature of the cows. Such an estrus detection device could prove profitable devices can be used (figure 2-7). Microprocesin several ways: sors will be used to alleviate odorous gases and
" Animals could be rebred faster after wean- airborne dust in ventilation systems.
ing and could increase the number of lit- One of the applications of monitoring and conters per year. trol technology in plant agriculture is in the man" Animals that did not breed could be culled agreement of insects and mites (Kennedy, 1985).
from the herd, saving on feeding and breed- Improvements in the design and availability of ing space. 1. computer hardware and software will produce
" Time would be saved because breeding significant changes in insect and mite managewould be done faster. ment at all levels (research, extension, pest man" Embryo transplants would be easier be- agreement, personnel, and farmer). Centralized,
cause of better estrus detection. computer-based, data management systems for
Environmental control of livestock facilities crop, pest, and environmental monitoring inis another area where monitoring and control formation have been developed and are being
Oh. 2-Emerging Technologies for Agriculture a 65
Figure 2-7. -Conf igu ration of Monitoring and An irrigation control system is another examControl Technologies in Agriculture pie of using monitoring and control technology
Example 1. Positive feedback for irrigation control (figure 2-2). Since irrigation decisions are comField Controller plex and require relatively large amounts of
Sol ircuitry information, microcomputer-based irrigation
sesrfield needs monitoring and control systems are especially
more water useful in areas where soils have variable perSends on-off colation and retention rates, where rainfall is signalr especially variable, or where the salinity of irAdditional Acatr m rigation wtrchanges unrdcal.In this
water on ,_ On-off system, a network of sensors is buried in the
flow valve signal irrigated fields, with radio links to the central
processor. Additional sensors may include Example 2. Negative feedback for temperature control in livestock weather station sensors to estimate crop stress
confinement and evaporation rates, as well as salinity senBuilding Thermostat sors and runoff sensors. The central processor
FT~- Temperature signal can then automatically allocate water to each
meter -- field according to the needs of the crops in each
field, subject to considerations of cost, leach(-) ing requirements, and availability of water.
hot Exhaust O-fsinlTolecommuniccitlons
Telecommunications technology provides
SOURCE: Office of Technology Assessment. links for voice communications and the transmission of digital data between farms and other
evaluated for use on a regional scale by a USDA firms and institutions. Through such technolAnimal and Plant Health Inspection Service re- ogy, farms, firms, and institutions can be joined gional program. Such systems will provide rapid together in a large number of formal and inforanalsis sumarzaton ad aces togenral mal networks. These networks enable farmers analsi summariztionre andrts acestocd genra to have relatively rapid, inexpensive, and reliafield management information, reports of new beacs ocnrldtbss etaie ot
or uknon psts geera pet srve inor- ware packages, and information on weather, mor unknw spestse general iwt pestsuvyif- markets, and other subjects of interest. Virtumaetineaspeiidfedlcain.ihps ally the same technology will be applied to both
seveniesanimal and plant agriculture. TelecommunicaOther software systems designed to facilitate tions include high speed, low speed, and radio directly the implementation of pest manage- telecommunications, satellite base communicament programs are in use and are continually tions, and remote sensing technology (Battelle, being improved. The Prediction Extension Tim- 1985). ing Estimator model (Welch, et al., 1978) is a High-speed or high-bandwidth communicageneralized model for the prediction of arthro- tions allow the farmer to send and receive much pod phenological events but is sufficiently flex- large mut fdt tlwrcssprbto
turle tbeufomangmn nonanyagricultua-ytm.Freape information. This capability is needed for videoturl ad nnagicuturl sstes. or xamle, text services, teleconferencing, and, in many it is used as a part of the broader biological monitoring scheduling system developed in Michi- cases, satisfactory real-time use of remote comgan by Gage and others (1982) for a large num- puter facilities. ber of pests on a wide variety of crops (Croft High-speed telecommunications is still underand Knight, 1983). going substantial amounts of development. New
66 s Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture
transmission capabilities or new technologies complete with addresses and distribution inare needed for bringing high-speed telecommu- structions. Each user station then transmits to nications to most rural areas. High-bandwidth the local repeater station when the transmistelecommunications can be provided by tech- sion channel is free. This technology may enable nologies that range from conventional high- cellular radio repeater technology to be excapacity, coaxial cable, microwave relay sys- tended to especially remote and sparsely poputems to fiber optics systems and high-band- lated areas and to areas where the basic telewidth direct transmit/broadcast satellite sys- phone system is inadequate and is unlikely to tems. High-bandwidth send-and-receive serv- be upgraded. ice for the average farm operation is not likely Satellite-based communication technologies
to b avilabe fr soe tme.may provide very high-capacity telecommuniThe existing telephone system is capable of cation channels for rural areas. These systems handling the demand for slow-speed telecom- may be the only feasible high-capacity link for munications services in many rural areas. The some especially isolated rural areas. Large farms latest generation of microcomputers, modems, may opt to establish their own ground stations and communications software is capable of for satellite-based telecommunication, but new automatically accessing remote databases and generations of communication satellites may quickly downloading and uploading information have the power to serve many small individual at regular intervals without operator attention. subscribers in remote rural locations. Rural areas that install fiber optic telecommu- Ams l omrilstliecmuia nication systems will have enormous informa- Amonsstem alcmmerci satellites commncation capacity that will easily support very high tion systms Alemplynatelitfesiiin y ofsyno
cot, rtwo-wn at videonerening, dedaionow low-cost, low-Earth orbit satellites for the colandt eteraimetway wiecnell ecome edaity' section, storage, and rebroadcasting of message ind therualnen aray 1990 beor e 2000. it packets has been demonstrated by amateur rain teserurl aeas y 190 r 200.dio groups. Commercial satellites using this deA number of emerging radio telecommunica- sign could enter service by 1990.
tion technologies will provide improved serv- Remote sensing is a collection of technological ice in rural areas without the need to rewire the ssesue odtcpoes n nlz
local telephone networks. These technologies sysletes used etd etectrocaes, adainalz can be put into two groups: ground-based, low- reflectedtande emitedneluetromatina raitOne power radio repeater systems, such as cellular ati an itce.hi includesterationa e-e mobile phone systems; and satellite-based com- sanien and t ospenrAmsraing eate munication systems. In principle, the cellular sellites, laneandnd oeariesarore cman atradio technology being installed in major cit- eliesthenda senrises, arbonaeraad ies can be expanded to smaller cities, towns, electrnic enrayste, a en orgrounbase and rural areas at higher power levels for use phtogrmecanoadoti sensing ehoorys unfor in voice and data communications. For appli- morain frmrmtaesngeo aplctecnology isedm cations where data transmissions are sufficient fors ar weat rartnge ofd applicatosig oeeamand instantaneous communications are not nec- uplaewatenpring, eniomnalndorsing, land essary, technology for packet radio messages puseplning environmental mopnitoring crop may provide substantial savings. Packet radio porodutioanaetmante, sil apigraine and systems use ground-based repeater stations to fotre management.ea xloain n funnel messages with a standard, or "pack- waesdmngmnt aged," format from distributed users to one Remote sensing technology in the form of another or to a point where the messages can weather forecasting has already made a great be inserted into a national telecommunication
network. Messages are entered at each user sta- OTraveling in orbit around the Equator at the same speed as tion, then converted into encoded "packets" the Earth rotates.
Ch. 2-Emerging Technologies for Agriculture @ 67
impact on agricultural production. Weather fruits and vegetables targeted for the fresh marreports and forecasts help farmers decide when ket must still be harvested by hand. to plant and when to harvest. Fruit growers de- The most economically important of the procpend on local weather forecasts to help make ess vegetables are the potato and the tomato, frost protection decisions. both of which are mechanically harvested. The
Farmers can also use remotely sensed infor- development of mechanized tomato harvesting mation to make other management decisions. is a particularly good example of technological Soil moisture levels can be estimated accurately success: the concurrent development of a mefor large northern plains wheat farms that de- chanical tomato harvester and a new, high-yield pend on stored soil moisture. Selection of fields process tomato, shaped for easy mechanical harfor rotation, seeding, and fertilizer rates could vesting, gave California a production increase then be planned for the available moisture on of 300 percent with only a 50-percent increase different parts of the farm to optimize net in- in land. Many other process vegetables are harcome. vested mechanically, and research is still unRemote sensing technologies provide crucial der way to automate the harvesting of cauliand timely information for the process of esti- flower, lettuce, okra, and asparagus. mating global crop production. These crop esti- Of the fruit crops, citrus crops are the largest mates can have large impacts on price levels in total value. Although oranges would seem and price variability. Estimates of crop produc- to be ideally suited to mechanical harvesting tion in different countries are an important fac- (80 percent of the crop is processed), the "bag tor in the administration of commodity and ex- and ladder" method of hand picking remains port policies. the most economical and widely used method.
For mass removal of some crops, mechanical
Labor-Saving Technology or oscillating-air tree shakers, usually in conjunction with abscission chemicals, are used.
Labor-saving technologies have made a signif- (Mechanical shakers are also used to harvest icant dent in the cost of labor for animal pro- process grapes and process deciduous fruits, duction and, to a lesser extent, for field crops. such as apples, pears, and peaches.) TechnolThe change to large-scale confinement opera- ogy trends in citrus production point to higher tions of livestock and poultry has dramatically density plantings and the maintenance of trees reduced labor costs through the automation of at a height of 5 meters or less. If high fruit yields feeding, waste disposal, and egg collecting. For result, there is good potential for development field crops, reductions have come from using of over-the-row equipment for production and larger tractors, combines, and tillage equipment. harvesting.
Opportunities still exist, however, for reduc- The use of robotics in agriculture is likely to ing labor costs, particularly through: 1) mechani- be centered on high-value, labor-intensive crops zation of fruit and vegetable operations, and 2) like oranges. Research is also being done on aprobotic farming. Researchers and growers are ple harvesters that will use ultrasonic sensors exploring ways to use these technologies with to detect tree trunks and steer around the trees. other technologies to change cultivars and cul- It is conceivable that by 1990, reductions in cost tural practices, rearrange work patterns, de- and increases in the speed of operation will velop labor-aid equipment (e.g., conveyors and make such robotic technology economically athoists), improve human relations, and develop tractive. Robotics may also have applications labor replacement equipment (Battelle, 1985). in animal agriculture-for example, in checkMechanical harvesting is most applicable for ing calving and farrowing, identifying estrus, fruits and vegetables that are to be processed managing feeding, and handling manure. or dehydrated, because such products will not Future labor replacement in agriculture will show the effects of mechanical handling. Most likely involve some aspect of electronics tech-
68 s Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture
nology, much of which will be adapted from off- called a turbocompound unit. This device capshoots of military and aerospace technology. tures exhaust gas energy and applies it directly Such technology will have to be adapted to with- to the drivetrain of the vehicle instead of using stand the variety in agricultural environments the energy solely to compress intake air, as in and will have to have better cost-benefit ratios the conventional turbocharger. Turbocompound for widespread adoption. Many new electronics units will be especially useful when installed technologies may affect the quality more than on adiabatic diesels, owing to the high energy the quantity of labor. People with higher level content of the exhaust gases from these engines. skills will be needed to operate and maintain Electronic engine controls are being introthe new, more complex equipment. duced by some manufacturers in an effort to
improve the efficiency of the fuel injection sysEngines and Fuels tem on diesel engines. As with similar systems
developed for automotive applications, this
Continued improvements in engines and fuels technology automatically works to optimize fuel can be expected in the energy efficiency, dura- delivery under changing conditions, based on bility, and adaptability of self-propelled farm information from engine sensors, implement equipment. These improvements are likely to sensors, and operator inputs. Minimization of come from R&D in a number of areas: 1) adia- tractor wheel slip by means of onboard monibatic and turbocompound engines, 2) electronic toring and control technology also improves fuel engine controls, and 3) onboard monitoring and efficiency. Other applications of this technolcontrol devices (Battelle, 1985). ogy to onboard control of field operations is deExpenditures by farms on liquid fuels were scribed in the section on monitoring and con$10 billion in 1982. Even modest improvements trol technologies. in energy efficiency in farm production will Considerable research has been conducted on have a significant impact on the total cost of the use of alternate fuels for agricultural appliproduction in agriculture. However, these tech- cations. Much of this research was motivated nologies will not be adopted unless they also by the oil embargo crisis and rapidly rising liqdeliver significant increases in productivity to uid fuel prices of the 1970s. None of the alterindividual farms. Farms are continuing to im- nate fuels hold much promise to increase the prove their energy efficiency by converting from fuel efficiency of conventional engines. This regasoline-powered equipment to diesel-powered search has revolved around the use of onfarm equipment at a rapid rate. Diesel fuel has more production of ethanol for use primarily in gasoenergy per dollar, and diesel engines extract line-powered equipment and the onfarm pressmore useful work from each calorie of fuel than ing and refining of sunflower oil for use in dieseldo gasoline engines. powered equipment. Neither fuel is economiAll onvntinal ntenalcombstin e- ally competitive with purchased liquid fuels gieAludn l itengnear mutoerll in the absence of substantial subsidies. Moreinef icn ecasel hieys dipoe ofermlrg over, both fuels are more difficult to use than amouicint ofbecauty mstis of coligrysems fossil fuels. Ethanol-based fuels tend to absorb Ifoenins cfha bconsuctedliof selser moisture and to separate in storage. Vegetable amenics wtand highstuce open temer- oil-based diesel fuels require special processtures the woultad oth needroing ytemsead ing, which changes their chemical and physiwulds bhey muh moed fficitnginyses fnhi cal characteristics, before they can be used reliatype are called adiabatic engines.byinumdfedeslnge. Turbochargers are being widely used to in- Crop Separation, Cleaning, and crease the performance of gasoline and dieselPrcsigThnly engines by putting some of the exhaust gasPresigTcnlg energy to use. Even more work can be extracted New technologies being developed to sepafrom the exhaust gases by means of a device rate, clean, and process crops offer many ben-
Ch. 2-Emerging Technologies for Agriculture 69
efits in increased yield, quality, and value of proceed at higher speeds. At present, the rate crops. There are two major lines of research in of travel must be held to 5 to 7 acres per hour this area: 1) improvements in separating and so that the combine operator can monitor sevcleaning grain, and 2) in-field or onfarm proc- eral functions of the combine. essing of forages and oilseeds (Battelle, 1985). Improvements in cleaning grain will result
The mechanization of grain harvesting and in a higher quality of grain and a reduction of separation has been one of the most important dockage at the point of distribution or sale. New factors in reducing the labor cost of grain pro- technologies will detect contaminants and reduction. Even small improvements in labor or move them on the combine or as the grain is capital efficiency have significant impacts on transferred into farm storage. Further improvegrain production because of the large total cost ments in grain cleaning will necessitate the use of producing the U.S. cash grain crop. of automated aeration and screening processes.
The basic methods of grain separation used Another way to increase the value of a crop in all combines are mechanical beating, aera- is to do some of the processing in the field or tion, and screening. While these methods have on the farm. A good example of in-field procbeen continually refined, the same basic tech- essing is the extraction of leaf protein juice from niques have remained unchanged since antiq- alfalfa for use as high-value feed for pigs and uity. poultry and as a food additive for humans. The
Grain harvesting productivity has been im- residue of the process can be used as roughage proved over the past three decades by increas- for livestock. ing the size and power of combines. Combines Onfarin extraction of oil from oilseed crops separate grain beating and rubbing the grain such as soybeans and sunflowers has technical stalk between a stationary surface and a cylin- merit as a way for farms to produce a diesel fuel der rotating at high speed. The chaff and other substitute or extender for tractors, combines, debris are cleaned from the grain by blowing and other equipment. Onfarm production of a large amount of air through the grain/chaff vegetable oil fuel is more efficient than the conmix. The difference in the ability of the two ma- version of grain to ethanol fuels. Moreover, the terials to float on the airstream effects their sep- oilseed meal and glycerol byproducts from oilaration. seed processing have substantial value as animal feed and chemical feedstocks. However, the
Constraints on the total size and weight of principal technology employed uses highly volacombine equipment that can be transported tile solvents and has a large requirement for capover public roads limit the increases in general ital, prohibiting its practical use on the farm. harvest productivity. Within this constraint, Moreover, present vegetable oil prices are aphowever, continued improvements in micro- proximately double the price of diesel fuel. processor-based monitoring and control technologies incorporated into grain combines will The adoption of onfarin processing of forages permit significant increases in capital and la- and oilseed is contingent on many domestic bor productivity. New electronic sensors will and international economic, political, and indetect grain loss more accurately, allowing the stitutional factors that currently override techoperator to make adjustments quickly. More- nical considerations. On the other hand, most over, if enough of the internal monitoring and technologies to improve combine performance control of the grain separation process can be should be achieved by the end of the decade, automated, and if grain losses are minimized, at costs that will not significantly add to the tocombine operators will be able to devote all of tal costs of today's combines. their attention to guiding the combine and can
70 Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture
CHAPTER 2 REFERENCES
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paper prepared for the Office of Technology As- Washington, DC, 1985.
sessment, Washington, DC, 1985. Chemical and Engineering News, "News Focus,"
Allen, Eugene C., "Regulation of Growth and De- Dec. 24, 1984.
velopment," paper prepared for the Office of Croft, B.A., and Knight, A.L., "Evaluation of the Technology Assessment, Washington, DC, 1985. PETE Phenology Monitoring System for InteBachrach, Howard L., "Genetic Engineering in Ani- grated Pest Management of Deciduous Tree Fruit
mals," paper prepared for the Office of Technol- Species," Bull. Entomol. Soc. Amer. 29:37-42,
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Battelle Columbus Laboratories, "Communication Curtis, Stanley E., "Enviromment and Animal Beand Information Management," paper prepared havior," paper prepared for the Office of Techfor the Office of Technology Assessment, Wash- nology Assessment, Washington, DC, 1985.
ington, DC, 1985. Davis, Charles J., "Chemical Fertilizers," paper preBattelle Columbus Laboratories, "Crop Separation, pared for the Office of Technology Assessment,
Cleaning, and Processing," paper prepared for the Washington, DC, 1985.
Office of Technology Assessment, Washington, Feldberg, Ross, "Framing the Issue: The Social ImDC, 1985. plications of Biotechnology," Science for the PeoBattelle Columbus Laboratories, "Engine and ple 17:3, May/June 1985, pp. 4-9 and 53.
Fuels," paper prepared for the Office of Technol- Fischer, James R., "Crop Residue and Animal Waste ogy Assessment, Washington, DC, 1985. Use," paper prepared for the Office of TechnolBattelle Columbus Laboratories, "Labor Saving ogy Assessment, Washington, DC, 1985.
Technology," paper prepared for the Office of Foster, George R., "Soil Erosion, Productivity, and Technology Assessment, Washington, DC, 1985. Tillage," paper prepared for the Office of TechBattelle Columbus Laboratories, "Land Manage- nology Assessment, Washington, DC, 1985.
ment," paper prepared for the Office of Technol- Fraley, R., et al., "Expression of Bacterial Genes in ogy Assessment, Washington, DC, 1985. Plant Cells," Proc. Nat]. Acad. Sci. USA 80:4803Battelle Columbus Laboratories, "Monitoring and 4807, 1983.
Control-Animal Agriculture," paper prepared Fraley, Robert T., "Genetic Engineering in Plants,"
for the Office of Technology Assessment, Wash- paper prepared for the Office of Technology Asington, DC, 1985. sessment, Washington, DC, 1985.
Battelle Columbus Laboratories, "Monitoring and Francis, Charles A., "Multiple Cropping," paper preControl-Plant Agriculture," paper prepared for pared for the Office of Technology Assessment,
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Battelle Columbus Laboratories, "Telecommunica- for Biological Monitoring and Pest Management," tion," paper prepared for the Office of Technol- Environ. Entomol. 11:1127-1133, 1982. ogy Assessment, Washington, DC, 1985. Genetic Engineering News 3(6), 1983.
Berry, Joseph A., "Enhancement of Photosynthetic Hammer, Robert E., "Physiology of Transgenic AniEfficiency," paper prepared for the Office of Tech- mals," paper presented at the Conference on Genology Assessment, Washington, DC, 1985. netic Engineering of Animals: An Agricultural
Boersma, Larry, "Water and Soil-Water-Plant Rela- Perspective, University of California, Davis, Sept. tions," paper prepared for the Office of Technol- 9-12, 1985. ogy Assessment, Washington, DC, 1985. Hansel, William, "Animal Reproduction," paper
Broglie, R., et al., "Light-Regulated Expression of prepared for the Office of Technology Assessa Pea Ribulose-1,5-Bisphosphate Carboxylase ment, Washington, DC, 1985.
Small Subunit Gene in Transformed Plant Cells," Herrera-Estrella, L., et al., "Chimeric Genes as DomScience 224:838-843, 1984. inant Selectable Markers in Plant Cells," The
Brotman, H., "Engineering the Birth of Cattle," The EMBO Journal 2:987-995, 1983. New York Times Magazine, May 15,1983, p. 106. House Committee on Science and Technology, BioBrowning, J.A., "Plant Disease and Nematode Con- technology and Agriculture: Hearings before the trol," paper prepared for the Office of Technol- Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, ogy Assesment, Washington, DC, 1985. 99th Cong., 1st sess., Apr. 16-17, 1985.
Campbell, J.B., "Livestock Pest Control," paper pre- Kalter, Robert J., Department of Agricultural Eco-
Ch. 2--Emerging Technologies for Agriculture 71
nomics, Cornell University, personal communi- Nickell, Louis G., "Plant Growth Regulators," pacation, 1985. per prepared for the Office of Technology AssessKalter, Robert J., Milligan, Robert, Lesser, William, ment, Washington, DC, 1985. Bauman, Dale, and Magrath, William, "Biotech- Osburn, Bennie I., "Animal Disease Control," panology and the Dairy Industry: Production Costs per prepared for the Office of Technology Assessand Commercial Potential of the Bovine Growth ment, Washington, DC, 1985. Hormone," Cornell University, Department of Palmiter, R.D., et al., "Metallathionein-Human GH Agricultural Economics, A.E. Research 84-22, Fusion Genes Stimulate Growth of Mice, Science
1984. 222:809-814, 1983.
Kennedy, George G., "Management of Insects and Pond, Wilson G., "Animal Nutrition," paper preMites," paper prepared for the Office of Technol- pared for the Office of Technology Assessment, ogy Assessment, Washington, DC, 1985. Washington, DC, 1985.
Liebhardt, William, and Harwood, Richard, "Organ- Suttan, A.L., et al., "Utilization of Animal Waste as ic Farming," paper prepared for the Office of Fertilizer," Purdue University, Cooperative ExTechnology Assessment, Washington, DC, 1985. tension Service, Miner, ID, 101, 1975. Lu, Yao-chi (ed.), "Forecasting Emerging Technol- Vasil, I., et al., "Plant Tissue Cultures in Genetics ogies in Agricultural Production," Emerging and Plant Breeding," Advance in Genetics, vol.
Technologies in Agricultural Production, U.S. De- 20 (New York: Academic Press, 1979), pp. 127-215. partment of Agriculture, Cooperative State Re- Wagner, Thomas E., "Gene Introduction and Regusearch Service, 1983. lation in Transgenic Animals," paper presented
McWhorter, C.G., and Shaw, W.C., "Present Status at the Conference on Genetic Engineering of Aniand Future Needs in Weed Control," paper pre- mals: An Agricultural Perspective, University of pared for the Office of Technology Assessment, California, Davis, Sept. 9-12, 1985. Washington, DC, 1985. Welch, S.M., et al., "PETE: An Extension PhenolMurai, N., et al., "Phaseolin Gene From Bean Is Ex- ogy Modeling System for Management of Multipressed After Transfer to Sunflower via Tumor-In- Species Pest Complex," Environ. Entomol. 7:487ducing Plasmid Vectors," Science 222:475-482, 494, 1978. 1983.
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Cultures," Ann. Rev. Plant Physiol. 25:135-166,
impacts of Emerging Technologies
on Agricultural Production
Technology Adoption and Primary Impacts ............................. 75
The Timing of Commercial Introduction .............................. 76
Prim ary Im pacts ................................................... 76
A doption Profiles .................................................. 78
Projection of Per-Unit Crop Yields and Livestock Feed Efficiencies ........ 79 Projections of Aggregate Crop and Livestock Production ................. 82
C rop Production ................................................... 82
Livestock and M ilk Production ...................................... 83
Summ ary and Conclusions ........................................... 85
Chapter 3 References ................................................ 85
Table No. Page
3-1. Estimated Percentage Change in Crop Yield ........................ 77
3-2. Estimated Percentage Change in Animal Feed and
Reproductive Effi ciency ......................................... 78
3-3. Estimates of Crop Yield and Animal Production Efficiency ........... 80
3-4. Historical and Projected Rates of Annual Growth in Crop Yield ....... 80 3-5. Projections of Crop Production ................................... 82
3-6. Projections of Animal Production ................................. 84
Figure No. Page
3-1. Logistic Adoption Curves for Corn, Package A ..................... 79
Impacts of Emerging Technologies
on Agricultural Production
Introducing to the marketplace the 150 emerg- OTA study participants arrived at this coning.technologies forecasted in this study raises clusion by first projecting where and under what questions about the effects these technologies economic and political conditions the various will have on crop yield, livestock feed efficiency, emerging technologies would be adopted and and future food production. Many people are what the primary impacts of those technologies concerned that the trends of major crop yields would be on net increases in production. Based are leveling off and that the world may not be on this information OTA projected the impacts able to continue to produce enough food to meet of technology adoption on agricultural producthe demands of its growing population. How- tion on a per-unit basis (e.g., bushels of corn per ever, OTA's analysis indicates that the United acre) and then on an aggregate basis (e.g., milStates can continue to meet foreign and domes- lion bushels of corn produced in the entire tic demand for agricultural products if agricul- country). tural research is adequately supported and if
economic and political environments are favorable. What this conclusion means in practice
is the subject of this chapter.
TECHNOLOGY ADOPTION AND PRIMARY IMPACTS
OTA commissioned leading scientists, spe- ogy-were conducted to assess the impacts of cialists in the 28 technological areas, to prepare emerging technologies on agricultural producstate-of-the-art papers. Each paper: 1) defined tion. Workshop participants, carefully selected and delineated the scope of a technology area, to include those with expertise in different 2) identified four or five major lines of research stages of technological innovation, comprised where significant technologies were likely to physical and biological scientists, engineers, emerge by 2000, 3) discussed the current state economists, extension specialists, commodity of technology development, 4) identified major specialists, agribusiness representatives, and exbreakthroughs in other science and technology perienced farmers. areas that would be necessary for successful de- Th atc nsprvddaao:1)heim velopment of the technology in question, 5) dis- Th atc~sp rvddaton1)heim cussed the institutional arrangements necessary ing of commercial introduction of each techfor he eserchof he tchnlog tobe on- nology area; 2) primary impacts, or net yield ducted or supported, 6) estimated the time in increases (by commodity), expected from each which a particular line of research would likely package of technologies; and 3) the number of be completed and the resulting technology in- years needed to reach various adoption percenttroduced commercially, and 7) estimated the po- ages (by commodity). tential primary impacts of each technology on The Delphi technique was used to obtain colcrop and livestock production. These papers lective judgments from the workshop participrovided the basis for discussion in two tech- pants on the development and adoption of the nology ,workshops conducted by OTA. emerging technologies.' To facilitate the procThe workshops-one for animal technology 'The Delphi technique is a systematic procedure for eliciting and the other for plant, soil, and water technol- and collating informed judgments from a panel of experts. It has
76 Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture
ess of obtaining consensus, an electronic Con- Table A-i in appendix A shows in more detail
sensor was used to help tabulate the ratings as- the sets of assumptions made under the altersigned by each expert. A detailed discussion of native technology environments.
the methodology and workshop procedures is The year of commercial introduction ranged
presented in appendix A. from now-for genetically engineered pharmaThe imig o Co mercal ntrducion ceutical products; control of infectious disease
The imig o Coumeral mtrducion in animals; superovulation, embryo transfer,
Since the impact of a new technology on agri- and embryo manipulation of cows; and conculture at a given time depends in part on when trolling plant growth and development-to 2000
the technology is available for commercial in- and beyond, for genetic engineering techniques
troduction, workshop participants were asked for farm animals and cereal crops. Of the 57
to estimate the probable year of commercial in- potentially available animal technologies, it was
troduction of each technology under three alter- estimated that 27 would be available for comnative environments: mercial introduction before 1990, and the other
30 between 1990 and 2000, under the most likely
1. Most likely environment-assumes to year environment. In plant agriculture, 50 out of 90
2000: a) a real rate of growth in research and technologies examined were projected to be
extension expenditures of 2 percent per year, available for commercial introduction by 1990,
and b) the continuation of all other forces that and the other 40 technologies between 1990 and
have shaped past development adoption of tech- 2000. The major categories of animal and plant
nology. technologies are listed in appendix A, tables
2. More-new-technology environment (rela- A-2 and A-3.
tive to the most likely environment)-assumes
to year 2000: a) a real rate of growth in research Primary Impacts
and extension expenditures of 4 percent, and
b) all other factors more favorable than those When a given package of technologies is
of te mot lkelyenvronmnt.adopted by a farmer and put into agricultural of te mot lkelyenvronmntproduction, its immediate impact on plant agri3. Less-new-technology environment (relative culture is increased yields and/or increased
to the most likely environment)-assumes to percentage of planted acreage harvested.2 To
year 2000: a) no real rate of growth in research determine immediate impacts on animal agriand extension expenditures, and b) all other fac- culture, OTA considered feed efficiency for all
tors less favorable than those of the most likely animals and reproductive efficiency for beef
environment. cattle and swine, milk production per cow for
4. No-new-technology environment-assumes
to year 2000: a) none of the emerging technol- 'It is often stated that U.S. agriculture needs cost-saving techogies identified in the study will be available nology, not yield-increasing technology. Technologies can be clasfor commercial introduction, and b) all the other sified into two general types according to their impact: 1) those
factors are the same as those under the less- that reduce the cost of production directly, and 2) those that increase productivity through yield increases. The first type of technew-technology environment. nology, such as nitrogen fixation and new crop varieties resistant to pest, disease, and environmental stress, saves costs of
purchasing agricultural chemicals, at little additional expense.
The second type of technology, such as pesticides, herbicides,
plant-growth regulators, irrigation, and fertilizer, typically intwo distinct characteristics: feedback and anonymity. During the crease yields, but at additional expense. Regardless of the type Delphi process, responses are collated and then referred to the of technology, all technologies reduce average costs if they are. experts for review, Each expert reevaluates his or her original worth adopting. For example, a new variety of corn increases answers after examining the summary of the group's responses. yields from 100 to 140 bushels per acre. Assuming no additional The iterative process of evaluation, feedback, and reevaluation increase in the cost of purchasing the new variety of seeds, the continues until a consensus is reached. Since this is not a ran- total cost of production using the new variety will be shared by dom sampling, the results obtained through the Delphi process 140 bushels rather than 100 bushels. Thus, the new variety redepend heavily on the experts selected. duces the average cost 29 percent.
Ch. 3-Impacts of Emerging Technologies on Agricultural Production 0 77
dairy cows, and the number of eggs per layer version of the package, thus delineating those (producing hen) for poultry. technologies that are expected to be introduced
To estimate the net impact of emerging tech- by 1990 and 2000, respectively. The packages nologies on agricultural production, workshop of technologies are described further in appenparticipants were first asked to project the per- dxA formance measures of crop and livestock pro- Through the Delphi process, OTA obtained duction, such as crop yields and livestock feed estimates for each package of technologies on efficiency, to 1990 and 2000 under the no-new- each of the nine commodities under the three technology environment. Historical trend lines alternative environments. The results are shown of the performance measures of crop and livestock production were provided to the partici- in tables 3-1 and 3-2. In soybean production, for pants as a basis for their projections. Through example, if technology package 1990A-which the Delphi process, participants collectively pro- icue eei niernehneeto jected the performance measures for each of photosynthetic efficiency, plant growth reguninecomodites or 990 nd 000 app A, lators, plant disease and nematode control, and tbeA.Tenine commodities foi n lde 200 oap.n, multiple cropping-is adopted by soybean proctable rice, Tobsheanin comoite icaluedaorn, ducers, yields are predicted to increase 2.2 percotton, ricet, obanswhneat. efcttear cent under the most likely environment, 15.2
catte, pulty, ad swne.percent under the more-new-technology enviBased on those estimates and on the informa- ronment, and only 1.2 percent under the lesstion obtained from the presentations and from new-technology environment. If package 2000A discussions with the authors of the commis- is adopted, soybean yields are predicted to insioned papers, participants then jointly pro- crease 22.1 percent under the most likely envijected the net increases in crop yields, animal ronment, 23.9 percent under the more-newfeed efficiencies, and other performance meas- technology environment, and 14.9 percent under ures that could be expected if specific packages the less-new-technology environment. Package of technologies were commercially available 2000A increases soybean yields substantially and fully adopted by farmers. Generally, the more than package 1990A because it includes 28 areas of technologies were grouped in "pack- such major technologies as genetically engiages" according to their probable impacts on neered soybean plants, photosynthetic molecua commodity. Each package was further catego- lar biology and genetics, and genetically engirized as a 1990 version of the package or a 2000 neered pest-resistant plants, all of which would
Table 3.1.-Estimated Percentage Change in Crop Yield
Technology Less-new-technology Most likely More-new-technology Crop package 2000 2000 2000
Corn ............ Package A 15.6% 21.5% 28.5%
B 8.8 14.4 20.8
C -31.2 -28.8 -28.0
Cotton ........... Package A 5.4 9.0 12.0
B 2.3 2.8 3.1
C 0 0 0
Rice ............Package A 8.4 12.4 15.6
B 8.8 14.4 18.6
Soybean ......... Package A 14.9 22.1 23.9
B 4.9 7.2 7.5
C 3.7 4.6 5.5
Wheat ........... Package A 24.0 24.0 24.0
B 1.5 1.5 1.5
C 5.0 5.0 5.0
SOURCE: Office of Technology Assessment.
78 # Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture
Table 3-2.-Estimated Percentage Change in Animal Feed and Reproductive Efficiency
Technology Less-new-technology Most likely More-new-technology
Animal package Efficiency measure 2000 2000 2000
Beef ..............Package A Pounds meat per lb feed 0 22.4% 30.4%
Calves per cow 0 0 28.4
B Pounds meat per lb feed 5.8% 10.4 12.4
Calves per cow 1.2 5.2 6.4
C Pounds meat per lb feed 1.8 4.5 5.8
Calves per cow 1.2 2.0 3.2
D Pounds meat per lb feed 0.1 1.2 1.7
Calves per cow 0 0.3 0.9
E Pounds meat per lb feed 1.4 2.8 3.3
Calves per cow 2.3 5.3 6.6
F Pounds meat per lb feed 0 1.1 1.5
Calves per cow 0 0 0
Dairy ..............Package A Pounds milk per lb feed 5.8 13.2 15.2
Pounds milk per cow 6.8 12.2 15.2
B Pounds milk per lb feed 7.6 11.0 13.0
Pounds milk per cow 9.4 12.2 14.6
C Pounds milk per lb feed 7.8 12.4 15.2
Pounds milk per cow 15.0 21.3 24.3
D Pounds milk per lb feed 25.6 25.6
Pounds milk per cow 25.6 25.6
Poultry ............Package A Pounds meat per lb feed 7.3 9.2 11.3
Eggs per layer per year 4.6 5.8 7.1
B Pounds meat per lb feed 2.5 3.1 3.9
Eggs per layer per year 4.0 5.0 6.2
C Pounds meat per lb feed 1.3 1.6 2.0
Eggs per layer per year 1.6 2.0 2.5
Swine .............Package A Pounds meat per lb feed 4.8 12.6 15.0
Pigs per sow per year 14.4 27.6 50.0
B Pounds meat per lb feed 2.8 4.0
Pigs per sow per year 14.4 20.8
C Pounds meat per lb feed 2.1 2.1
Pigs per sow per year 0.8 2.4
SOURCE: Office of Technology Assessment.
not be ready for commercial adoption until after Adoption Profiles
1990.The primary impacts estimated above assume
Note that technology package C for corn pro- that the technologies will be fully adopted by
duction, which consists of only organic farm- farmers and put into agricultural production.
ing, received very low marks from the Delphi But when a new technology is introduced for
panel. If fully adopted, this technology will re- commercial adoption, only a small number of sult in yield reductions ranging from 23 to 28 farms, mostly the large and innovative ones, will
percent. Some organic farming specialists feel adopt the technology initially because the posthat the panel overestimated the negative im- sible payoff of the new technology is uncertain
pact. Harwood (1985) indicates that the best esti- and because the potential adopters need time mate from the published reports is about a 10- to learn how to use the new technology and to
percent reduction. Since the cost of organic evaluate its worth. As early adopters benefit
farming is lower, the economic efficiency for from using a new technology, more and more
organic farming maybe higher than that for con- farmers will be attracted to it, increasing the
ventional farming. speed of adoption exponentially. Eventually, as
Ch. 3-Impacts of Emerging Technologies on Agricultural Production 0 79
most potential adopters adopt a new technol- Figure 3-1.-Logistic Adoption Curves for Corn, ogy, the percentage of adoption will level off Package A
and approach a maximum; thus, the adoption 90
profile follows an S-shaped curve (Lu, 1983). 80 To derive an adoption profile of each pack- g 70 age of technologies for each commodity under 60/ different economic environments, participants D were divided into commodity groups according to their expertise in a particular commodity. 4 There were four groups in the animal technol- 0) 30 ogy workshop (beef, swine, dairy, and poultry) 20/ and five in the plant, soil, and water technology workshop (wheat, corn, cotton, soybean, 10 and rice). The participants were then asked the 0
0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24
question, "If a specific package of technologies Years from Introduction date
is introduced in the market today, how long will it take for farmers to have it adopted?" Based More-new-technology Lesiew-technology on their collective experience, the participants -Most likely environment estimated the following for each package of tech- Source: Office of Technology Assessment. nologies:
1. The maximum percentage of adoption. communication and information management,
2. The number of years it would take to reach monitoring and control, and telecommunica20-percent adoption. t
3. The number of years it would take to reach tons. The participants estimated that it would a to d take 8 years to reach 20-percent adoption un50-percent adoption. der the most likely environment, while it would
Based on information from the commodity take only 6 years to reach it under the moregroups, a logistic curve was fitted for each pack- new-technology environment, where the ecoage of technologies applied to each of the nine nomic environment is more favorable for techcommodities under different scenarios. Figure nology adoption. To reach 50-percent adoption, 3-1 shows the estimated adoption curves for it would take 11 years under the most likely envipackage A corn technologies, which consist of ronment and 10 years under the more-new-techplant genetic engineering, plant disease and nology environment. The maximum adoption nematode control, management of insects and rate projected is 80 percent under both envimites, water and soil-water-plant relations, ronments.
PROJECTION OF PER-UNIT CROP YIELDS AND LIVESTOCK FEED EFFICIENCIES
Based on the information obtained from the ronments. The results are presented in tables workshops on: 1) the years of commercial intro- 3-3 and 3-4.3 duction, 2) the primary impacts, and 3) the adop- Under the most likely environment, feed effition profiles, OTA computed the efficiency ciency in animal agriculture will increase at a measurements for all animals and the average For ease of presentation, the less-new-technology environment yield and percentage of planted acreage for all is not presented. Its estimates fall between the no-new-technology crops in 1990 and 2000 under alternative envi- and most likely environments.
80 Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture
Table 3.3.-Estimates of Crop Yield and Animal Production Efficiency
No-new-technology Most likely More-new-technology environment environment environment
Actual 1982 2000 2000 2000
Corn-bu per acre .................. 113 124 139 150
Cotton-lb per acre ................. 481a 511 554 571
Rice-bu per acre ................... 105 109 124 134
Soybeans-bu per acre .............. 30a 35 37 37
Wheat-bu per acre ................. 36 41 45 46
Pounds meat per lb feed ............. 0.070 0.066 0.072 0.073
Calves per cow ..................... 0.88 0.96 1.0 1.04
Pounds milk per lb feed ............. 0.99 0.95 1.03 1.11
Milk per cow per yearb (1,000 Ib) ...... 12.3 15.7 24.7 26.1
Pounds meat per lb feed ............. 0.40 0.53 0.57 0.58
Eggs per layer per year .............. 243 260 275 281
Pounds meat per lb feed ............. 0.157 0.17 0.176 0.18
Pigs per sow per year ............... 14.4 15.7 17.4 17.8
aNot actual-based on estimate from trend line.
bThese estimates differ from those in table 2-2 of the first report from this study because of changes made at a later date by workshop participants In the adoption rate of some of the dairy technology packages.
SOURCE: Office of Technology Assessment.
Table 3.4.-Historical and Projected Rates of Annual Growth in Crop Yield
No-new-technology Most likely More-new-technology 1960-82 environment environment environment
Corn ........... 2.6% 0.5% 1.2% 1.6%
Cotton ......... 0.1 0.3 0.7 1.0
Rice ........... 1.2 0.2 0.9 1.4
Soybean ........ 1.2 0.8 1.2 1.2
Wheat ......... 1.6 0.7 1.2 1.4
SOURCE: Office of Technology Assessment.
rate of from 0.2 percent per year for beef to 1.4 in 1982 to 41 bushels per acre in 2000, assumpercent for poultry. In addition, reproduction ing no new technologies will become available
efficiency will also increase, at an annual rate before 2000. Under the most likely environment, ranging from 0.6 percent, for beef cattle, to 1.1 wheat yields will increase at the rate of 1.2 perpercent, for swine. Milk production per cow cent per year to 45 bushels per acre. The differper year will increase at 3.9 percent per year, ence in wheat yield between the two environfrom 12,300 pounds to 24,730 pounds per cow, ments, 4 bushels per acre, represents the impact
in the period 1982-2000. of new technologies under the most likely enviMajor crop yields are estimated to increase ronment.
from 1982 until 2000 at a rate ranging from 0.7 How do these rates of increase compare with
percent per year, for cotton, to 1.2 percent per historical trends? Will emerging technologies year, for wheat and soybeans. Wheat yield, for significantly change the trends? By far the most
example, is projected to increase at the rate of drastic increases in productivity will be in milk 0.7 percent per year, from 36 bushels per acre production, primarily because the products of
Oh. 3-Impacts of Emerging Technologies on Agricultural Production 0 81
genetic engineering will soon be available for manly because development of biotechnology commercial adoption by the dairy industry. One for plants is far behind that for animals. Most of the proteinaceous pharmaceuticals, bovine of the major plant biotechnologies will not be growth hormone, is alone expected to increase commercially available before 2000. Therefore, milk yields between 20 to 40 percent almost it will be difficult to maintain historical trends overnight via daily injections of the hormone without infusion of new technologies. As shown into cattle. in table 3-4, all major crops included in this
study, except for cotton, have experienced pheFrom 1960 to 1982 milk production increased nomenal growth during the past 20 years. The 2.6 percent per year, from 7,029 pounds per cow average annual rates of growth range from 1.2 per year to 12,316 pounds. If no new technol- percent, for rice and soybeans (and 1.6 percent ogy is available from now until 2000, this rate for wheat), to 2.6 percent for corn. Without new of increase would not be maintained. Under technologies, these trends cannot continue. Unsuch an environment milk production per cow der the no-new-technology environment, the per year is expected to increase at only 1.4 per- yields of major crops are expected to grow only cent per year, from 12,316 pounds in 1982 to at 0.2 percent per year for rice, to 0.8 percent, 15,700 pounds in 2000. However, if new tech- for soybeans. Even under the most likely envinologies are adopted, the rate of increase in milk ronment, corn and wheat yields still could not production would far surpass the historical rate, keep up with past growth. Under the more-newunder the remaining technology environments, technology environment, the annual rates of Under the more-new-technology environment, growth of all major crops, except for corn and milk production is expected to reach 26,080 wheat, are expected to equal or exceed historipounds in 2000, at an annual rate of 4.2 percent. cal rates of growth. The growth rate of corn
Applcaton nd dopionof ew echoloies yields under the most favorable environment will also increase the feed efficiency of other isepcdtob1.prenwchsfasot animals. Poultry feed efficiency has been in- of the historical rate of 2.6 percent per year. creasing at 1.2 percent per year for the last 15 New technologies could have asignificant imyears. Under the most likely environment, feed pact on cotton and rice yields. Cotton yields have efficiency will increase at 1.4 percent per year not increased much during the last two decades. through 2000. Instead, they have been fluctuating around the
trend line, which has increased at the rate of
The feed efficiencies for beef and swine have only 0.1 percent per year from 1960 to 1982. not increased for the last 15 years. Beef feed effi- Adoption of new technologies could shift the ciency declined from 0.093 pounds of beef per trend upward. Under the most likely environpound of feed in 1965 to 0.065 pounds in 1973 ment, cotton yields are projected to increase at and then maintained at about 0.070 pounds in 0. 7 percent per year, and under the more-newrecent years. The introduction of new technol- technology environment, 1.0 percent per year. ogies will increase feed efficiencies. Under the
most likely environment, the feed efficiency is Although rice yields have increased at an averprojected to increase at an annual rate of 0.2 age of 1.2 percent per year since 1960, the yield percent, reaching 0.072 pounds of beef per curve has been flattened since 1967. During the pound of feed in 2000. Swine feed efficiency 1960-67 period, rice yields increased at 4.1 perhas declined steadily from 0. 19 pounds of pork cent per year, but the rate of growth has declined per pound of feed in 19 74 to 0. 15 pounds in 1980. to only 0.2 percent per year since 1967. IntroUnder the most likely environment, feed effi- duction of new technologies into rice producciency will increase to 0.18 pounds of pork per tion could turn the yield curve upward. Under pound of feed in 2000, at the rate of 0.4 percent the most likely environment, rice yields are exper year. pected to increase 0.9 percent per year, and under the more-new-technology environment, 1.4
Efficiencies in crop production will be less percent. This is the highest rate of growth estidramatic than those in animal production, pri- mated among all major crops.
82 & Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture
PROJECTIONS OF AGGREGATE CROP AND LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION
OTA used the projected crop yields and per- Crop Production
cent of planted acres harvested for major crops, Aplctosfne tch lgiswliand the projected feed and reproductive effi- crapplicratinso newotecnge willuginciencies of livestock, to assess the collected im- creaseraggregatepcropdproduction throughuTal pacts of the 28 areas of emerging technologies t- h projections erod-fr191 2000. Trabed on the total production of various crop and live- 3-5dushos prjiein taoyr 2000s Tofa inScrse stock products. The primary tool used in the production for fivemor crps ToaleU.S. crop analysis was an econometric model which is pieoductin asopsdeermine y o avraelro
an annual, partial equilibrium model consist- yied andjces tof crops hadrteteted.cpyils ing of a crop sector, a livestock sector, and a wgeevproet tomn thesls the techfinancial sector.4 The model is a partial equi- nogy nvrkonmnt frmThe restis to t teclibrium model in that a general equilibrium so- conotg workshngopte proeos, took pitoaclution is solved within the agricultural sector imounts hem ig, aotonoofies A e priar while a specified set of conditions are assumed imopas ofvete emeringtechnles. Acrtes mofl to exist within the rest of the economy, such cros harvespted redtrned byo thep mrodel, as population growth, income growth, export baeon diexsopetdets, fror proudemand, and interest rates. The model was used tpific divesinepaymns n te rp in a 20-year simulation projecting the effects seii osdrtos of technological change on the various crop and Although there will be a drop in the number livestock commodities previously discussed. of acres of corn planted, projected yield inThe results appear below, creases and increases in the proportion of
planted acres actually harvested will cause corn production to increase over time under each 4The model used was the Iowa State University econometric environment. The increase will be greatest unmodel developed by Earl Heady. der the more-new-technology environment, a
Table 3-. -Projections of Crop Production
No-new-technology Most likely More-new-technology Crop Unit 1984 environment environment environment
Production..Billion bu 7.7 8.6 9.3 9.7
Growth rate..Percent 0.7 1.2 1.5
Production..Billion lb 6.2 6.4 6.9 7.2
Growth rate..Percent 0.1 0.7 0.9
Production..Million cwt 137.0 153.6 163.4 169.2
Growth rate..Percent 0.7 1.1 1.3
Production..Billion bu 1.9 3.0 3.2 3.3
Growth rate..Percent 3.1 3.4 3.6
Production..Billion bu 2.6 3.3 3.5 3.5
Growth rate..Percent 1.5 1.9 2.0
eProjections shown for this commodity differ from those In table 2-3 of the first report from this study because the previous
figures were preliminary.
SOURCE: Office of Technology Assessment.
Ch. 3-Impacts of Emerging Technologies on Agricultural Production 0 83
situation that is also true for the other crops increase generally. The higher calving rates analyzed. under the more-new-technology environment
Unlike planted acres of corn, planted acres also tend to increase beef production. Increased projetion production tends to depress livestock and meat of soybeans will increase during the prjcin prices if demand for livestock and meat does period. Increases in yields and increases in har- not increase proportionately. vested acres will cause total U.S. soybean production to increase significantly over the 1982 The production of prime beef is determined through 2000 projection period. Because yields, by the number of feeder cattle slaughtered, the planted acres, and proportion of planted acres average fed cattle weight at slaughter, and the harvested vary little across different environ- conversion ratio of live weight to carcass weight ments, production increases do not vary much (dressing percentages). across environments. The rate of increase ranges As shown in table 3-6, prime beef production from 3.1 to 3.6 percent per year for the no-new- decreases over time for all technology environtechnology and more-new-technology environ- ments. Due to higher calving rates and lower ments, respectively. feed costs, beef production is highest under the
Planted acres of wheat are projected to in- more-new-technology environment. Under the crease under the no-new-technology environ- most likely environment, beef production is proment but to decrease under the most likely and jected to decline from 1984 to 2000 based on more-new-technology environments. Increases a weakness in consumer demand caused by in average wheat yields will cause wheat pro- changes in income levels, shifts in taste, and duction to increase over the projection period, concern over potential health problems associAs sownin abl 3-, cotonyieds re ro- ated with the consumption of red meat, among
As sownin abl 3-, cotonyieds re ro- other factors. jected to increase relatively less than corn, soybean, and wheat yields. Planted acres of cotton The impacts of technology on pork producare projected to increase under each of the tech- tion are reflected only through differences in nology environments, with only slight differ- feed input prices. Differences in farrowing rates ences across environments. Increases in both are not accounted for across environments. As yields and harvested acres will cause total U.S. shown in table 3-6, pork production is projected cotton production to increase, downward for all technology environments.
Planted acres of rice are also projected to in- The downward trend is attributed to higher feed crease under each technology environment. As iput prices and higher retail pork prices reshow intabe 34, iceyieds re rojcte to sulting from lower production. Pork production increase over time for each environment. In- tondr 15e poter enro mn 198 to oj2000. creasing yields and increasing harvested acres todp15erntfm194o20. will cause total rice production to increase over Chicken production is projected to increase time. over time for all technology environments, and
the differences across the various environments
Livestock and Milk Production are minimal.
Technology impacts are felt in the livestock Total milk production is determined by mulsector through calving rate changes for beef and tiplying milk yield times milk cow numbers. through feed input price differentials for beef Milk yield, as indicated earlier, is projected to and other livestock. Higher feed efficiencies and increase through 2000, owing in large part to crop production levels under the more-new- the anticipated emergence and adoption of biotechnology compared with the no-new-technol- technologies in the dairy industry. Cow numogy environments result in lower corn, soybean bers are determined in the model as a positive meal, and wheat prices. The lower prices of function of the ratio of the blend price of Grade these feed inputs cause livestock production to A and Grade B milk over the average ration cost
84 *Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture
Table 3-6.- Projections of Animal Production
No-new-technology Most likely More-new-technology
Livestock Unit 1984 environment environment environment
Production..Billion lb 16.0 12.5 14.1 15.7
Growth rate-..Percent -1.5 -0.8 -0.2
Production -...Billion lb 13.5 16.8 16.7 16.7
Growth rate-..Percent 1.4 1.3 1.3
Production -...Billion lb 13.8 10.7 11.7 13.0
Growth rate..Percent -1.6 -1.0 -0.4
Production -...Billion lb 135.4 126.1 192.1 201.8
Growth rate-..Percent -0.4 2.2 2.5
SOURCE: Office of Technology Assessment.
and a negative function of the cull price of dairy tition for U.S. farmers in international markets. cows. The blend price falls slightly for each envi- Much of this increased competition will come ronment over the projection period. The aver- from developing countries selling farm comage ration cost and cull cow price are exoge- modities as a source of exchange to pay for imnously projected to increase over the 1983-2000 ports such as oil. Despite this increased comperiod. As a result, cow numbers are projected petition, exports of grain from North America to decline by at least 30 percent over the period, are projected nearly to double by year 2000. with only small differences across the envi- On the other hand, there is another school of
ronmnts.thought that believes current studies such as that Given the increases in milk productivity and by RFF have not properly assessed the magnithe decreases in cow numbers, what will hap- tude and impact of emerging technologies on pen to total milk production over time? As farm production. Technologies such as genetic shown in table 3-6, under the no-new-technology engineering and electronic information techenvironment, milk production will fall at 0.4 per- nology that are available now in various forms cent per year from 1982 through 2000 because could mean rapid increases in yields and proreductions in cow numbers more than offset in- ductivity. While such changes may improve the creases in milk yield. Under the other two envi- competitive position of American agriculture, ronments, milk production will increase despite they might create surpluses and major structhe reductions in numbers of cows. The largest tural change-favoring, for example, larger, increases are projected to occur before 1990. more industrialized farms.
In te wrldagrculuralmaretpace avil- Any conclusion regarding the balance of globanbe orlagrpiultra marketplceeravail- al supply and demand requires many assumpabrles fratnd pofinits oaerioi serinest tofc tions about the quantity and quality of resources surles andlor d93 eficitssover the exttoe- available to agriculture in the future. Land, ae(lo,1983; Resources for the Future, td water, and technology will be the limiting facindicates that the global balance between cereal tr oarcluesftr rdciiy
production and population will remain quite Agricultural land that does not require irriclose until year 2000, indicating vulnerability gation is becoming an increasingly limited reto annual shortfalls resulting from weather, source. In the next 20 years, out of a predicted wars, or mistakes in policy. Over the next 20 1.8-percent annual increase in production to years the world will become even more depen- meet world demand, only 0.3 percent will come dent on trade. There will be increasing compe- from an increase in quantity of land used in pro-
Ch. 3-Impacts of Emerging Technologies on Agricultural Production 0 85
duction (RFF, 1983). The other 1.5 percent will be able not only to meet domestic demand but have to come from increases in yields-mainly also to contribute significantly to meeting world from new technology. Thus, to a very large ex- demand in the next 20 years. This does not nectent, research that produces new technologies essarily mean that the United States will be comwill determine the future world supply/demand petitive or have the economic incentive to probalance and the amount of pressure placed on duce. It means only that the United States will the world's limited resources. have the technology and resources available to
The OTA results indicate that with continu- provide the production increases needed to exous inflow of new technologies into the agri- port for the rest of this century. cultural production system, U.S. agriculture will
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
OTA finds that emerging agricultural tech- mal agriculture, significant impacts from such nologies, if fully adopted, will produce signifi- technology will not be felt in plant agriculture cant impacts on the performance of plant and before the turn of the century. The development animal agriculture. The most dramatic impacts and adoption of the new technologies under the will first be felt in the dairy industry, where new most favorable environment will, in the, short genetically engineered pharmaceuticals (such as run, increase the rates of growth of major crop bovine growth hormones and feed additives) yields, except for corn, at about the level of the and information management systems will soon historical rates of growth. However, the impacts be introduced commercially. New technologies of these technologies will be substantially adopted by the dairy industry will increase milk greater for plant agriculture after 2000. production far beyond the 2.6-percent annual The OTA study indicates that, with a continrate of growth of the past 20 years. Under the ued flow of new technologies into the agriculmost likely environment, milk production per tural production system, major crop yields will cow is expected to increase at an annual rate cotneogrwadUSariuuewlloof 3.9 percent. Applications of new tehoois tinue to provide enough food to meet domestic will also increase the feed efficiency and repro- adfrindmn sln sarclua e ductive efficiency of other agricultural animals. sadh frign ademutluotdand aslnesarclturlire
Because development of biotechnology for and political environments are favorable. plant agriculture is lagging behind that for aniCHAPTER 3 REFERENCES
Harwood, Richard, Program Officer, International Mellor, John W., "Food Prospects for the DevelopAgricultural Development Service, personal com- ing Countries," American Economic Review,
munication, July 30, 1985. May 1983, pp. 239-243.
Lu, Yao-chi, "Forecasting Emerging Technologies Resources for the Future, "Meeting Future Needs
in Agricultural Production," in Yao-chi Lu (ed.), for United States Food, Fiber and Forest ProdEmerging Technologies in Agricultural Produc- ucts," report prepared for the joint Council on tion, Cooperative State Research Service, U.S. De- Food and Agricultural Sciences (Washington, DC:
partment of Agriculture, 1983. December 1983).
The Changing Structure of American Agriculture
Present Structure of Agriculture..................................... 91
Changes in the Structure of U.S. Agriculture .......................... 92
Changes in Farm Size and Number ....................92
Changes in the Distribution of Sales and income .....................93
Changes in the Sources of Income ................................. 94
Projections of Structural Change in U.S. Agriculture to Year 2000 .........96
Structure of U.S. Agriculture by Major Commodity Groups ..............97
Cash Grain Subsector........................................... 98
Cotton Subsector............................................... 98
Dairy Subsector................................................ 99
Poultry Subsector................................................ 99
Cattle and Calf Subsector......................................... 99
Pork Subsector ................................................. 100
Regional Structure ................................................ 100
Comparison Between Regions and Commodities ..................... 102
Distribution of Sales Within Regions and Among Regions ............. 103
Summary ....................................................... 105
Table No. Page
4-1. Sales Classes of Farms ........................................ 92
4-2. Number of Farms and Percent of Farms by Sales Class, 1969-82 ...93 4-3. Gross Farm Income and Percent of Gross Farm Income by Sales Class, 1969-82 ........................................ 93
4-4. Net Farm Income and Percent of Net Farm Income by Sales Class, 1969-82 ........................................ 94
4-5. Total Farm Income and Percent of Total Farm Income by Sales Class, 1969-82 ........................................ 94
4-6. Average Gross Farm Income, Net Farm Income, Off-Farm Income, and Total Income of Farms, 1969-82 .............................95
4-7. Most Likely Projection of Total Number of U.S. Farms in 1990 and 2000, by Sales Class ................................ 96
4-8. Percent of Total U.S. Sales of All Commodities by Commodity Group and Region, 1982 .........................102
4-9. Percent of Total U.S. Sales of Each Commodity by Region, 1982 .... 102 4-10. Percent of Total Regional Sales by Commodity, 1982 .............. 103
Figure No. Page
4-1. Cash Grain Sales by Sales Class, 1969-82 ..........................98
4-2. Cotton Sales by Sales Class, 1969-82 ..............................98
4-3. Dairy Sales by Sales Class, 1969-82 ...............................99
4-4. Poultry Sales by Sales Class, 1969-82 ....................... ...... 99
4-5. Cattle Sales by Sales Class, 1969-82 ...............................100
4-6. Hog and Pig Sales by Sales Class, 1969-82 .........................100
4-7. Regions and Divisions of the United States .........................101
Dynamic Structure of Agriculture
Who will use a technology is as important a Further concentration of resources will be most consideration as which technology will be likely in those industries already highly concenadopted, for the distribution of technology af- trated, for example, the broiler, fruit and vegetafects both agricultural production and the socio- ble, and dairy industries. economic structure of the entire agricultural Several factors contribute to the changing sector. character of the agricultural sector: policies,
The trend toward concentration of agricul- institutions, economies of size, and new techtural resources in fewer but larger farms will nologies themselves. This chapter provides a continue, although the degree of concentration perspective for analyzing technology's distribuwill vary by region and by commodity. indeed, tional impacts on agricultural structure by surin the future, 75 percent of the food and fiber veying the characteristics of that structure and in this country will probably be produced by the factors that affect it. only 50,000 of the 1 million farms in existence.
PRESENT STRUCTURE OF AGRICULTURE
The heart of agriculture-the farm-is offi- tor began in the 1930s and was virtually comcially defined as a place that produces and sells, plete by 1960, releasing about 20 percent of the or normally would have sold, at least $1,000 cropland, which had been used to grow feed worth of agricultural products per year. So de- for draft animals. fined, there were about 2.2 million farms in
1982. Farms in that year had an average net in- The increased mechanization of farming percome from farming of $9,976 and an average mitted the amount of land cultivated per farm off-farm income of $17,601, for a total of $27,577. worker to increase fivefold from 1930 to 1980.
The amount of capital used per worker inPerhaps the best known characteristic of U.S. creased more than 15 times in this period. Toagriculture is the trend toward larger but fewer tal productivity (production per unit of total infarms. Currently, about 1 billion acres of land puts) more than doubled because of the adoption are in farms, resulting in an average farm size of new technologies such as hybrid seeds and of about 400 acres. However, this average size improved livestock feeding and disease prevenhas little meaning, since fewer than 25 percent tion. The use of both agricultural chemicals and of all farms fall within the range of 180 to 500 fuel also grew very rapidly in the postwar peacres. Almost 30 percent of all U.S. farms have riod. Agricultural production began to rely heavless than 50 acres, whereas 7 percent have more ily on the nonfarm sector for machinery, fuel, than 1,000 acres. fertilizer, and other chemicals. These, not more
The number of farms reached a peak of about land or labor, produced the growth in farm pro6.8 million farms in 1935 and is now approxi- duction. The resultant changes have greatly inmately 2.2 million. The rate of decline has creased the capital investment necessary to slowed since the late 1960s, with a loss of about enter farming and have generated new require100,000 farms since 1974. ments for operating credit during the growing
Employment in farming began a pronounced cycle. decline after World War II, when a major tech- One of the best ways to look at changes in the nological revolution occurred in agriculture. economic structure of U.S. agriculture is in The replacement of draft animals by the trac- terms of value of production as measured by
92 Technology, Public Policy, and the Changing Structure of American Agriculture
gross sales per year. Farms can be usefully clas- Moderate-size commercial farms cover the sified into the five categories of gross sales lower end of the range in which the farm is large shown in table 4-1. enough to be the primary source of income for
Small farms generally do not provide a Sig- an individual or family. Most families with nificant source of income to their operators. farms in this range also rely on off-farm income. This class of farms is operated by people living In general, farms in this range require labor and in poverty and by people who use the farm as management from at least one operator on more a source of recreation.thnapr-iebs.
Part-time farms may produce significant net Large and very large commercial farms inincome but in general are operated by people clude a range of diverse farms. The great mawho depend on off-farm employment for their jority of these are family owned and operated.
primary source of income. Most farms in these classes require one or more
full-time operators, and many depend on hired
Table 4-1 .-Sales Classes of Farms labor on a full-time basis. Five percent of these
farms are owned by nonfamily-owned corporaAmount of gross tions, a much higher percentage than in the Class sales per year_ other three classes. In general, the degree of conSm all............................. < $20,000 tracting and vertical integration is much higher
Part-time ....................... $20,000 to $99,999
Moderate .....................$100,000 to $199,000 in these classes.
Large ......................... $200,000 to $499,999
Very large......................... 2 $500,000
SOURCE: Office of Technology Assessment.
CHANGES IN THE STRUCTURE OF U.S. AGRICULTURE
In tables 4-2 to 4-5 changes in the structure number of farms was redistributed toward the of U.S. agriculture between 1969 and 1982 are larger sales classes in the years prior to 1982, presented in terms of four basic attributes: num- the real number of small farms declined by about bers of farms, gross income of farms, net farm 39 percent-a dramatic decline. Recent reports income, and off-farm income. The information that the number of small farms has actually inin each table has been adjusted to account for creased since 1978 refer primarily to farms that the impact of inflation and is presented in terms have less than 50 acres, not to farms with less of constant 1982 dollars. Inflation in commodity than $20,000 per year in sales. The number of prices over the 13 years between 1969 and 1982 part-time farms has increased by about 57 perhas tended to move many farms from lower sales cent. The number of moderate-size farms has classes into higher sales classes. Farm numbers, increased greatly, by 111 percent. The numbers sales, and income values have accordingly been of large and very large farms have also increased redistributed to correct for this.' very dramatically, by about 130 and 101 percent, respectively. The substantial increase in
Changes In Farm Size and Number the real number of moderate-size farms appears
to contradict many claims that the moderateMajor changes in the structure of U.S. agri- size farm is disappearing from the structure of culture can be seen in the changes in the num- American agriculture. However, as will be shown ber of farms shown in table 4-2. Even after the in the next two sections and in later chapters,
'The redistribution to correct for inflation interms of 1982 dol- cagod inictoenur of conmi eat or tebl-, lars has the effect of moving farm numbers, sales, and income ago niao feooi elho h bl from lower sales classes into higher sales classes in the years prior ity of different classes of farms to survive finanto 1982. cially.