In 1962, one farmer fed 25.8 persons. In the 50 years since, he has taken on considerably more responsibility and now feeds 155.

“We’ve seen a remarkable change in agriculture,” said Travis Miller, associate department head, Soil and Crop Sciences, Texas A&M University.

Miller took the opportunity to reminisce a bit during the grain session of the 50thAnnual Blackland Income Growth Conference recently in Waco.

“I’ve never done this research before,” he admitted, “but it is fascinating,” to look at the changes in agriculture that have paralleled the history of the B.I.G Conference.

Miller said some of the key advancements include: Pest management through genetically modified plants; institution of integrated pest management programs; plant breeding that allows high plant populations; precision planting equipment; better fertilizer formulations and application equipment; global positioning system agriculture; larger, faster and more efficient tractors and combines; mapping plant genomes that allows more rapid breeding; rapid and more accurate soil testing; and semi-dwarf wheat varieties.

Miller said 50 years of change mean farmers can produce more food and fiber on fewer acres and with fewer nutrient inputs. “Corn yields in 1950 averaged 40 bushels per acre,” Miller said. “More recently, average corn yield was more than 160 bushels. Soybeans increased from 22 bushels in 1950 to 40-plus bushels in 1980.”

In 1950, U.S. corn acreage totaled about 82 million. That figured dropped to 59 million in the late 60s but hit 90 million last year. Soybean acreage has increased from 18 million in 1950 to 80 million by 2007.