- LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
- LAST MODIFIED: 25 February 2014
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0148
- LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
- LAST MODIFIED: 25 February 2014
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0148
The size and diversity of Latin America make it impossible to identify a characteristic “Latin American agricultural technology.” There are few types of agricultural technologies that are not used somewhere in the region. The exceptions are almost entirely traditional technologies that were developed within specific cultural contexts in other regions of the world or that are clearly inappropriate in the geographic circumstances of soil and climate found in Latin America. Many Latin American public research institutes, universities, corporate research facilities, and individual farmers are capable of locating and adopting technologies from anywhere in the world and adapting them to local conditions, although the institutions and farmers of some nations and regions in Latin America are far better equipped to do so than others. Liberalized trade, Internet resources, international organizations, and the expanding influence of transnational corporations have in general greatly facilitated diffusion of technological innovations. Agricultural technology as discussed here consists of all applications of human knowledge, methods, and tools, as well as plant and animal varieties used for production of agricultural goods. Chemicals, mechanical tools, and biological organisms must be employed in particular ways, and it is both the tools and the ways they are used that make up the technologies of production. It is also important to note that many technologies that are not particularly agricultural in nature have had enormous influence on the development of agriculture. Improvements in transportation, refrigeration, communication, and information processing often overshadow the influence of more specifically “agricultural” technologies. These will be considered here only as they established the context for specifically agricultural technologies. The purpose here is to provide an overview of the history of agricultural technologies in Latin America and an elucidation of current major perspectives and controversies about the best future paths for agricultural research and development.
Geographers and economic historians provide a good starting point for considering the diversity of agricultural technologies in context. Many Mexican, Guatemalan, and Andean farmers still rely heavily on technologies developed millennia ago in the same regions where those technologies originated. In contrast, an Argentine farmer is more likely to be working in a region where settled agriculture has been established for only one or two centuries, and to be using technologies, including genetically engineered seeds, nearly identical to those currently in use in Europe and the United States. A Brazilian farmer in the recently cleared thorn forests of the cerrado is using synthetic pesticides and new combinations of soil amendments to grow mechanically harvested soybeans, while Brazilian small-scale farms may be using techniques passed down from German, Italian, Japanese, or African ancestors. Clawson 2012 includes a chapter on agriculture in Latin America that surveys this diversity while necessarily being less than comprehensive. For a beginning at thinking of this diversity in a systematic way, Robinson 2003 updates the rather old-fashioned field of agricultural geography, by using a broad range of social-science literature and studies of current issues, including but not focusing on Latin America. Geographer Christian Brannstrom’s anthology (Brannstrom 2004) is distinguished by excellent articles by mostly younger scholars offering provocative viewpoints that span history and geography. Rumney 2005 offers a systematic look at the literature in agricultural geography, with a well-chosen annotated bibliography. Gallup, et al. 2003 considers the question of the degree to which Latin America’s development has been determined by its physical geography, which provides an interesting way to begin to think about how cultural factors, especially technology, have shaped the life of the region. A much-deeper and more sophisticated look at this question can be found in Engerman and Sokoloff 2011, working from the disciplines of history and economics. Fernandes, et al. 2007 provides a neo-Marxist Brazilian view of agricultural geography, of a sort very influential in Latin America, with an emphasis on popular rural movements in Latin America. Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean, et al. 2011 gives an overview of current prospects for the agricultural economy of the region as a whole.
Brannstrom, Christian, ed. Territories, Commodities, and Knowledges: Latin American Environmental Histories in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Papers presented at the Workshop on Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Latin American Environmental History held at the Institute of Latin American Studies, University of London, on 2–3 November 2001. London: Institute for the Study of the Americas, 2004.
An anthology that serves as an excellent introduction to controversies both over content and method in environmental history and historical geography, with a strong emphasis on agriculture and agricultural knowledge.
Clawson, David L. Latin America and the Caribbean: Lands and Peoples. 5th ed. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.
An excellent standard geography text with a chapter on agriculture that gives an overview of many of the issues considered here.
Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean, Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The Outlook for Agriculture and Rural Development in the Americas: A Perspective on Latin America and the Caribbean 2011–2012. San Jose, Costa Rica, IICA, 2011.
Highlights rapidly changing prices for food crops and livestock related to Asian demand and biofuel competition for land and resources. Emphasizes the growing divergence of capabilities of the larger economies (e.g., Brazil, Argentina, Mexico) compared to smaller and poorer ones, and the need to address stark inequalities among and within nations in the ability to take advantage of information and computer technologies. Useful bibliography.
Engerman, Stanley L., and Kenneth L. Sokoloff. Economic Development in the Americas since 1500: Endowments and Institutions. NBER Series on Long-Term Factors in Economic Development. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
A meticulously argued case that while institutions ultimately shape the nature of society and in the long run determine their success, institutions in the Americas were shaped by basic features of the environment such as climate and soils. Highly useful for rethinking the nature and consequences of technological choices, whether or not one agrees with the argument.
Fernandes, Bernardo Mançano, Marta Inez Medeiros Marques, and Julio Cesar Suzuki. Geografia agrária: Teoria e poder. Geografia em Movimento. São Paulo, Brazil: Expressão Popular, 2007.
Brazilian scholars with substantial experience with social movements consider the development of agriculture from a left-wing perspective of a sort that is very influential in Latin America. A critique of agricultural geography as a field as well as a new theoretical formulation of it.
Gallup, John Luke, Alejandro Gaviria, and Eduardo Lora. Is Geography Destiny? Lessons from Latin America. Latin American Development Forum. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2003.
A starting point for thinking about patterns of development in Latin America, carefully considered but deliberately provocative as well. The emphasis on physical characteristics of the region highlights the key role of agriculture and technological possibilities.
Robinson, Guy. Geographies of Agriculture: Globalisation, Restructuring, and Sustainability. Boston: Addison-Wesley, 2003.
A much-needed effort to put new life into the somewhat musty subdiscipline of agricultural geography, by reaching beyond the discipline of geography into social science and historical literature.
Rumney, Thomas A. The Study of Agricultural Geography: A Scholarly Guide and Bibliography. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2005.
Rumney’s book provides a way to think systematically about the diversity of agriculture, as well as containing a highly useful bibliography.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
- Agricultural Technologies
- Ancient Andean Textiles
- Andean Contributions to Rethinking the State and the Natio...
- Antislavery Narratives
- Arab Diaspora in Latin America, The
- Argentina in the Era of Mass Immigration
- Argentina, Slavery in
- Argentine Literature
- Army of Chile in the 19th Century
- Asian Art and Its Impact in the Americas, 1565–1840
- Asian-Peruvian Literature
- Atlantic Creoles
- Baroque and Neo-baroque Literary Tradition
- Bello, Andrés
- Black Experience in Colonial Latin America, The
- Black Experience in Modern Latin America, The
- Borderlands in Latin America, Conquest of
- Bourbon Reforms, The
- Brazilian Northeast, History of the
- Buenos Aires
- Caribbean Philosophical Association, The
- Caribbean, The Archaeology of the
- Cartagena de Indias
- Caste War of Yucatán, The
- Caudillos, 19th Century
- Cádiz Constitution and Liberalism, The
- Chaco War
- Children, History of
- Chile's Struggle for Independence
- Chronicle, The
- Church in Colonial Latin America, The
- Chávez, Hugo, and the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela
- Cinema, Contemporary Brazilian
- Cinema, Latin American
- Colonial Central America
- Colonial New Granada
- Colonial Portuguese Amazon Region, from the 17th to 18th C...
- Contemporary Maya, The
- Costa Rica
- Cárdenas and Cardenismo
- Cuban Revolution, The
- Dependency Theory in Latin American History
- Development of Architecture in New Spain, 1500–1810, The
- Development of Painting in Peru, 1520–1820, The
- Drug Trades in Latin America
- Dutch in South America and the Caribbean, The
- Early Colonial Forms of Native Expression in Mexico and Pe...
- Economies from Independence to Industrialization
- Ecuador, La Generación del 30 in
- El Salvador
- Enlightenment and its Visual Manifestations in Spanish Ame...
- Environmental History
- Era of Porfirio Díaz, 1876–1911, The
- Family History
- Film, Science Fiction
- Football (Soccer) in Latin America
- Gaucho Literature
- Gender in Colonial Brazil
- Gender in Postcolonial Latin America
- Guatemala and Yucatan, Conquest of
- Guatemala City
- Guatemala (Colonial Period)
- Guatemala (Modern & National Period)
- Haitian Revolution, The
- Health and Disease in Modern Latin America, History of
- History, Cultural
- History, Food
- Honor in Latin America to 1900
- Horror in Literature and Film in Latin America
- Human Rights in Latin America
- Immigration in Latin America
- Indigenous Elites in the Colonial Andes
- Indigenous Population and Justice System in Central Mexico...
- Indigenous Voices in Literature
- Japanese Presence in Latin America
- Jewish Presence in Latin America, The
- Las Casas, Bartolomé de
- Latin American Independence
- Latin American Urbanism, 1850-1950
- Law and Society in Latin America since 1800
- Legal History of New Spain, 16th-17th Centuries
- Legal History of the State and Church in 18th Century New ...
- Literature, Argentinian
- Machado de Assis
- Magical Realism
- Maroon Societies in Latin America
- Martí, José, and Cuba
- Mestizaje and the Legacy of José María Arguedas
- Mexican Nationalism
- Mexican Revolution, 1910–1940, The
- Mexican-US Relations
- Mexico, Conquest of
- Mexico, Education in
- Migration to the United States
- Military and Modern Latin America, The
- Military Government in Latin America, 1959–1990
- Military Institution in Colonial Latin America, The
- Modern Decorative Arts and Design, 1900–2000
- Modern Populism in Latin America
- Modernity and Decoloniality
- Musical Tradition in Latin America, The
- Native Presence in Postconquest Central Peru
- New Conquest History and the New Philology in Colonial Mes...
- New Left in Latin America, The
- Novel, Chronology of the Venezuelan
- Novel of the Mexican Revolution, The
- Novel, 19th Century Haitian
- Novel, The Colombian
- Oaxaca, Conquest and Colonial
- Painting in New Spain, 1521–1820
- Paraguayan War (War of the Triple Alliance)
- Pastoralism in the Andes
- Paz, Octavio
- Perón and Peronism
- Peru, Colonial
- Peru, Conquest of
- Peru, Slavery in
- Philippines Under Spanish Rule, 1571-1898
- Photography in the History of Race and Nation
- Political Exile in Latin America
- Popular Culture and Globalization
- Popular Movements in 19th-Century Latin America
- Post Conquest Aztecs
- Post-Conquest Demographic Collapse
- Poverty in Latin America
- Preconquest Incas
- Pre-conquest Mesoamerican States, The
- Pre-Revolutionary Mexico, State and Nation Formation in
- Printing and the Book
- Prints and the Circulation of Colonial Images
- Protestantism in Latin America
- Religions in Latin America
- Revolution and Reaction in Central America
- Rosas, Juan Manuel de
- Sandinista Revolution and the FSLN, The
- Santo Domingo
- Science and Empire in the Iberian Atlantic
- Sexualities in Latin America and the Caribbean
- Slavery in Brazil
- São Paulo
- Spanish and Portuguese Trade, 1500–1750
- Spanish Caribbean In The Colonial Period, The
- Spanish Colonial Decorative Arts, 1500-1825
- Spanish Florida
- Telenovelas and Melodrama in Latin America
- Textile Traditions of the Andes
- 16th-Century New Spain
- Transculturation and Literature
- Trujillo, Rafael
- Tupac Amaru Rebellion, The
- United States and Castro's Cuba in the Cold War, The
- United States and the Guatemalan Revolution, The
- United States Invasion of the Dominican Republic, 1961–196...
- Urban History
- Urbanization in the 20th Century, Latin America’s
- U.S.-Latin American Relations During the Cold War
- Vargas, Getúlio
- Venezuelan Literature
- Women and Labor in 20th-Century Latin America
- Women in Colonial Latin American History
- Women in Modern Latin American History
- Zapatista Rebellion in Chiapas