Cutting-edge agriculture combines ancient techniques with innovations and extraordinary scale. The result can look like science fiction.
German photographer Henrik Spohler recently documented agricultural methods including the genetic engineering of plants by scientists in Germany, “gigantic outdoor monocultures in the United States,” and farming “under glass and plastic in the Netherlands and Spain” to show “places where man has assumed the role of Creator.”
Scientists grow and measure corn plants at a research facility in Germany.
© Henrik Spohler
Shiitake mushrooms grow on compressed sawdust blocks in Germany; they’re designed to mimic dead logs.
At facilities like this tomato greenhouse in Middenmeer, the Netherlands, scientists have tamed Mother Nature to grow fresh produce any time of year.
Inside the greenhouse, farmers grow rows upon rows of perfectly shaped tomatoes. Whether mass-produced fruit tastes good is another story.
Up close, you can see several tomato trusses (the fruit-bearing part of the plant) growing from a single plant.
The dry, dusty climate in Andalusia, Spain, used to make it a poor place to farm. Then farmers began covering the landscape with greenhouses — and built a $US2.8 billion agriculture industry.
Fields in Paso Robles, Calif., may look like the surface of a desolate planet, but they’re just fallow. Fields are left ploughed but unseeded to let them regain fertility for a later season.
Irrigation channels in California transformed an area that used to be covered with dry steppe into one of the most important fruit and vegetable farming regions in North America.
Grape vines grow in semiarid King City, Calif.
Before planting, soil must be chemically treated to rid it of weeds in the seedbed that would compete with the crop for water and nutrients.
The soil is covered with plastic mulch to suppress weeds and conserve water. Plants grow through small slits in the sheeting. Plastic mulch has been praised for preventing rotting fruit, but disposal of the sheeting has become an environmental problem.
Here, soil in California has been tilled and irrigated. Seedlings are beginning to grow.
At a vineyard in California, grapes are near the beginning of their growth cycle.
Cactuses grow in perfect uniformity in Borrego Springs, Calif.
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