Farming as a Science-Based IndustryCategory: Land + People
Although agriculture will be hard-pressed to feed the many people in the world in 1984, even at the present low levels, in Britain and in other European countries the increased need will not be bearly so great as for the world as a whole; the anticipated rise in population is less and the initial standard of living already high. Unlike many parts of the world, however, Britain has little or no waste land to bring into cultivation. Instead, the farms must lose land needed for housing, factories, schools, offices, and roads. Another loss from the farms will be labour.
The British farmer will have to produce more on less land and with fewer men. To do so he will have to use every tool placed at his disposal by the scientist and technologist — or condemn himself to a life of slavery on an income providing a bare subsistence. There will always be some men prepared to follow this life from their love of the traditional ways on the land, but they will be in continuous danger of extinction and their numbers will undoubtedly have fallen by 1984. These farms will be family farms as the traditional methods will not allow hired labour at the wage levels agriculture must pay to keep abreast with a general rise in productivity.
For the rest of the land the management must, by 1984, have passed into the hands of men capable of applying every branch of science and technology, including modern techniques of management. Their farms must necessarily be a size which will justify their ability, skill and energy and bring them reward sufficient to attract them from other industries anxious to buy their services. These farms will be also big enough to employ men with special skills rather than the all-round farm craftsman.
… On the arable land the cultivations will be increasingly mechanized, the management and operation of the machines being the responsibility of one group of workers. Field will have to be reshaped and enlarged to make cultivations easier, with the elimination of many hedgerows. Weeds will be almost entirely controlled by means of herbicides. Crop varieties bred to meet the needs of mechanized farming will be used exclusively. The use of fertilizers will be heavy but controlled [...] The crops will be protected against pests and diseases from seed to harvest, largely by insecticides and fungicides [...]
… Farm stock will have to be equally productive. Breeding will, during the next twenty years, become more and more scientific. Already we are seeing the results of the work of the geneticists in the poultry industry, and the breeding of dairy cattle is rapidly following on similar lines. No longer will individual skill and judgement be enough; the farmer in 1984 will need the maximum degree of certainty in the productivity of his stock [...]
… The feeding of animals will be based on the growing knowledge of animal nutrition. Computers will formulate balanced rations for pigs and poultry at minimum cost, the protein being partly supplied by the mechanical breakdown of plant, cells or by material synthesized by micro-organisms. The management of animals will be the work of men specially qualified. Every device to save labour while freeing the stockman to exercise his skill and powers of observation will be used. Animals are individuals and need individual attention, but that does not mean back-breaking labour. The less the stockman has to lift and haul the more care he can give to his animals. The design of buildings- considered that 75 dairy cows should be a minimum herd size for one cowman …
(From The World in 1984 by Sir William Slater, F. It. S. Formerly Secretary, Agricultural Research Council, London)