Segments in this Video

Variable Rate Farming Technology (02:23)


A satellite snaps high resolution images of a cotton field. Digital Globe operates the world's highest resolution photography satellite. Its images are useful for a growing number of high tech farmers.

Evolution of Harvesting (02:06)

In a world where globalization has sparked fierce trade competition, improving the efficiency of the harvest has become a matter of survival. Machines are replacing human hands, which have historically been the most important farming tool.

Dawn of Mechanized Farming (02:02)

In the vast grain fields of early America the size of a farmers crop was limited by how quickly the grain could be harvested. It is hotly debated who invented the first successful mechanized reaper. It was a critical milestone in agriculture.

Combine Revolution (02:18)

While most believed farming would revolve around the reaper and separate threshing machine, one forward thinker disagreed. Hiram Moore made the world's first combined harvester.

Modern Combine (02:20)

Cutting and threshing operations have reached a new level of speed and efficiency. What was once a grueling and tedious hand harvest is now a push button job done in an office-like setting.

Cotton Revolution (03:21)

The 19th century American south was dependant on "king cotton." Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin in 1793. Cotton harvesting was finally mechanized in 1942.

Precision Agriculture (02:52)

In various Third World countries the hand harvesting of rice is still central to survival. The large-scale harvesting of rice in industrialized nations began after World War II. Modern combines are being equipped with high tech equipment.

Modern Sugar Beet Harvesting (02:55)

Sugar beets are root crops that must be extracted from beneath the ground. It is a much desired crop. Extracting pure sucrose from a sugar beet is a massive enterprise of traffic control and chemistry.

Economic Impact of Mechanized Harvesting (03:03)

Fresh market produce is a hand harvested commodity. Mechanized harvesting is typically reserved for those fruits and vegetables destined for processed products. Developing a harvest that didn't destroy tomatoes was a challenge.

Evolution of Nut Harvesting (02:37)

For some crops the transition to a mechanical harvest was simple. In the 1940s machine driven limb shakers replaced the hooked pole.

Mechanized Olive Harvesting (02:05)

Hand picking is still the prevailing method for olive harvesting because it decreases the chances of bruising the delicate fruit. Some growers are turning to sophisticated shaker harvesters because of the high cost of hand picking.

Low Wage Farm Labor (02:02)

San Joaquin Valley is the richest farm belt in the world. Harvesting its crops requires a balance of mechanization and hand labor. A stream of labor came from Mexico during WWII and continues today. Ergonomics is making farming less painful.

Farm Labor Assisting Devices (02:06)

The mass harvest of lettuce still requires a bend and cut motion. In the days prior to ergonomic study back injury was a constant problem. At Dole the harmonious union of man and machine increases productivity.

Mechanized Grape Picking Solution (04:58)

In some harvesting operations ergonomic solutions are surprisingly simple. The hand harvesting of wine grapes has changed very little over the last thousand years. A small decrease in the weight load carried by workers reduced back injuries.

Problems with Mechanized Orange Harvest (02:06)

In the orange groves of Florida hand laborers work long months to harvest the crop. This is cause for concern because cheap labor in Brazil is threatening to put Florida out of the orange business.

Farm Technology (02:05)

Science is testing a host of new technologies to gather crops and ensure high quality. Sensing technology is promising higher quality control of the harvest. Cost containment is the driving force of mechanization and may eliminate the combine.

Future of Mechanization (02:08)

In the orange industry, the desire to remove the human hand is fueling a move into robotics. While machines maneuver to cut costs and satisfy production goals, armies of farm workers struggle to find their place in the changing landscape.

Credits: Modern Marvels: Harvesting (00:30)

Credits: Modern Marvels: Harvesting

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In the vast grain fields of early America the size of a farmer's crop was limited by how quickly the grain could be harvested. For some crops, the transition to a mechanical harvest in the early 20th century was simple. Modern cutting and threshing operations have reached a new level of speed and efficiency. Distributed by A&E Television Networks. (45 minutes)

Length: 45 minutes

Item#: BVL42840

Copyright date: ©2004

Closed Captioned

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