200 Years of Indiana Farming

As we celebrate Indiana’s bicentennial this summer at the Indiana State Fair, take a look at some major farming milestones of the last 200 years.

1816 – Indiana becomes a state

Before Indiana was officially a state, it was a part of a large portion of land called the “Indiana Territory.” It officially became the 19th state to join the union on December 11, 1816.


1837 – John Deere and Leonard Andrus begin manufacturing steel plows.

The practical threshing machine is patented.

Steel Beam Stubble Plow

1862-1875 – American farmers move from hand-powered to horse-powered farming.

This characterizes the first American Agricultural Revolution.

Horse-Powered Farming

1892 – The first gasoline tractor is built.

John Froelich is to thank.


1908 – Hybridization, a self-pollination method, is introduced by G.H. Shull.

Plant scientists use genetics to crossbreed plants, which can create hardy, disease-resistant crops. Fast forward 18 years, and hybrid corn becomes available in the U.S. causing corn yields to triple over the next 50 years.

1954 – The number of tractors on farms exceeds the number of horses and mules.

Fast forward six years to 1960 and a farmer is producing 23.5 soybean bushels per acre. In 1925, that number was 11 soybean bushels per acre.

1970s - “No-till” agriculture, a method to decrease soil erosion, is popularized.

By leaving the previous years’ crops and residue in the fields, the amount of water that infiltrates into the soil increases, along with organic matter retention and cycling of nutrients into the soil. Many U.S. Farmers practice this sustainable farming method, which also reduces labor, fuel use and equipment wear. Since 1980, U.S. soil erosion has decreased 66% per soybean bushel and energy use has declined 48%.

1995 – Hands-free automated tractor steering systems become available.

Considered another method of sustainable farming, “Precision Agriculture” starts to take hold in the ‘90s. Farmers begin using satellite technology (also known as GPS) and variable rate technology to track and plan their farming practices. In the mid 2000’s, auto guidance becomes so accurate that fields only get what they need, when they need it, resulting in less waste of energy, time and materials.

2002 – Of 281 million acres farmed, 103 million are worked using conservation tilling techniques.

Looking ahead 4 years to 2006, no-till farming will lead to a global reduction of 14.76 billion kg of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of removing 6.56 million cars from the road for one year.

Image courtesy of CTIC.

2016 – Farmers continue to find ways to provide greater amounts of safe, affordable and nutritious food.

Did you know 97% of US Farms are Family Farms? And many of them have been handed down and taken care of for generations.


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