A "Retro-Futuristic" View of Farming

Town and Country

1968 predictions of what farming might look like in 2000 were a little off.

Published on: April 5, 2013

Looking through back issues of Kansas Farmer in the past week, I read through one of the most important eras in agricultural history – the "Green Revolution," as it was named in 1968. The revolution was spearheaded by Norman Borlaug in the early 1940s, followed by major innovations in the 50s and 60s.

These innovations include the widespread adoption of tractors – which outnumbered horses by 1954, and the use of high yield varieties, pesticides, fertilizers and irrigation, all of which vastly improved yields through the years.

When I got to the 1968 issues, something caught my eye. What at first looked like The Jetsons comics were actually illustrations of what "farming might be at the turn of the century." I guess the 1960s did popularize what's now called the "retro-futuristic" look. It just goes to show you how even our perceptions of the future change over time.

The article, titled "Agriculture 2000," was a collaboration of Ford Motor Company technical personnel and a panel of scientists assembled at Michigan State University. Some predictions weren't far off. Like satellite-guided GPS units and refrigerators in tractor cabs.

Others missed the mark – by quite a bit. I'm not saying a hovercraft wouldn't be nice, but even now, 13 years after they were supposed to have been in use, we've got a ways to go. A photo caption read, "By the turn of the century, farmers may do some of their most important jobs from the air, with equipment such as this combination helicopter-hovercraft. Engineers already have built one machine which lifts off the ground by low air pressure to spray cranberry vines on rough ground."

While we just recently started talking about 300-bushel per acre corn, the article predicted an even higher amount by 2000. "Corn yields will zoom to 500 or more bushels per acre, compared with today's national average of about 75 bushels."