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Managing food supply strategies to increase production: the Green Revolution
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What is the Green Revolution?
Social, Biochemical and Mechanical aspects
Genetic Modification and Seed Selection
India's Green Revolution
 

What is the Green Revolution?

The Green Revolution is the term used to describe the transformation in agricultural practices in many parts of the developing world between 1940 and the 1960s.  This revolution sought to eradicate famine in many nations and massively increase food production, by effectively ending subsistence agriculture and replacing it with commercial agriculture.  The idea was to transplant many of the systems, ideas and technology of Western farming into (mainly) Asian agriculture, whilst researching and utilising the resources Asian countries had.  It was largely funded by the Rockefeller foundation, the Ford foundation and some other major agencies.

The Rockefeller and Ford Foundations established the IRRI (International Rice Research Institute) in the 1960s.  This institute developed new High Yielding Varieties of various crops, which spread through the  more democratic countries of the region such as Indonesia, Pakistan, India, parts of South America and North Africa. USAID became involved by subsidising infrastructure developments and fertiliser shipments.
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The Green revolution followed 3 major strands in its attempts to transform agriculture - Social, Biochemical and Mechanical.

The social element of the Green Revolution was concerned with overhauling relic cultural norms in relation to land ownership (basically trying to join smaller inefficient family land holdings into bigger more profitable plots), plus making facilities available to farmers to borrow money and to improve rural road infrastructure so that the farmers could better access domestic and world markets.  The land reforms had catastrophic impacts on many small famers and destroyed a culture of subsistence farming in some areas. The Borrowing money facility was also risky, because one poor harvest would mean many very poor farmers could end up destitute.  The Biochemical side was associated with increasing crop yields by using MEDC technology to raise production levels.  Seed selection, fertilisers and pesticides were all used to increase yields, but came at the expense of environmental damage.  These biochemical changes were supported by mechanical improvements, such as irrigation and farm mechanisation. Richer farmers could profit from these, but poorer farmers couldn't and soon found themselves vulnerable to being bought out by wealthier neighbouring farms or corporations
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Genetic Modification and seed selection

One of the biggest improvements made within the Green revolution was seed selection of plants with the best properties to fit certain environments.  IR8, a variety of rice, was promoted throughout Asian and had the following properties;

Shorter stems

Narrower leaves

Standard plant length/height

Insensitive to variations in day length/photoperiod

Matures more rapidly

Yields are higher
These all had advantages for the plant.

 
IR8 growing 
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The Green revolution in India
 

There were three basic elements in India with regards to the Green Revolution:

1) Continued expansion of farming areas

The area of land under cultivation was being increased right from 1947. But this was not enough in meeting with rising demand. Other methods were required. Yet, the expansion of cultivable land also had to continue. So, the Green Revolution continued with this quantitative expansion of farmlands.

2) Double-cropping existing farmland

Double-cropping was a primary feature of the Green Revolution. Instead of one crop season per year, the decision was made to have two crop seasons per year. The one-season-per-year practice was based on the fact that there is only natural monsoon per year. This was correct. So, there had to be two "monsoons" per year. One would be the natural monsoon and the other an artificial 'monsoon.'

The artificial monsoon came in the form of huge irrigation facilities. Dams were built to arrest large volumes of natural monsoon water which were earlier being wasted. Simple irrigation techniques were also adopted.

3) Using seeds with superior genetics

This was the scientific aspect of the Green Revolution. The Indian Council for Agricultural research was re-organized in 1965 and then again in 1973. It developed new strains of high yield value (HYV) seeds, mainly wheat and rice but also millet and corn. The most noteworthy HYV seed was the K68 variety for wheat.

 
 

Gains

Limitations

Yield per unit of farmland improved by more than 30 per cent between 1947 (when India gained political independence) and 1979

Crop areas under high-yield varieties needed more water, more fertilizer, more pesticides, fungicides and certain other chemicals. This spurred the growth of the local manufacturing sector.

The increase in irrigation created need for new dams to harness monsoon water. The water stored was used to create hydro-electric power. This in turn boosted industrial growth, created jobs and improved the quality of life of the people in villages.

India transformed itself from a starving nation to an exporter of food.

Even today, India's agricultural output sometimes falls short of demand.

India has failed to extend the concept of high-yield value seeds to all crops or all regions. In terms of crops, it remain largely confined to food grains only, not to all kinds of agricultural produce.

There are places like Kalahandi (in India's eastern state of Orissa) where famine-like conditions have been existing for many years and where some starvation deaths have also been reported. Of course, this is due to reasons other than availability of food in India, but the very fact that some people are still starving in India (whatever the reason may be), brings into question whether the Green Revolution has failed in its overall social objectives though it has been a resounding success in terms of agricultural production.

 

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Read this pdf document and complete a table like the one below on the advantages and disadvantages of the Green Revolution.

  Advantages Disadvantages
Social    
Economic    
Environmental    

2) Describe and explain the patterns on the graphs below.

3) Watch a video