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Agricultural innovation: invention and adoption or change and adaptation?

By Marijke Van der Veen


This paper was published as World Archaeology, 2010, 42 (1), pp. 1-12. It is available from DOI: 10.1080/00438240903429649Metadata only entryAgricultural innovations are primarily concerned with a need for increasing production (of food, fodder, secondary products) as well as enhancing quality (of produce, production process, growing conditions). This paper reviews current thinking on how improvements and innovations in agriculture arise, what forms they take and what agents are involved. Innovations typically affect one or more of the following areas: crops, animals, growing conditions, implements and management practices. While ‘macro-inventions’ (radical new ideas) do occur, many concern ‘micro-inventions’, that is changes or modifications to tools and practices made by skilled practitioners (farmers, craftspeople), rather than by inventors or entrepreneurs. Indeed, agricultural innovations frequently concern not so much the adoption of newly introduced technologies, but the adaptation of existing ones. The term ‘agricultural revolution’ tends to be used when a number of improvements in separate areas of the farming system co-occur as a complex, and, although these may be introduced gradually, once they reach a critical mass their impact on society may be of a magnitude deserving of the term ‘revolution’

Topics: Agriculture, farming, innovation, food production, agricultural revolution, adaptation, incremental change, macro-invention, micro-invention
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Year: 2010
DOI identifier: 10.1080/00438240903429649
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