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Charting the history of agricultural experiments

Parolini, Giuditta

FG Wissenschaftsgeschichte

Agricultural experimentation is a world in constant evolution, spanning multiple scientific domains and affecting society at large. Even though the questions underpinning agricultural experiments remain largely the same, the instruments and practices for answering them have changed constantly during the twentieth century with the advent of new disciplines like molecular biology, genomics, statistics, and computing. Charting this evolving reality requires a mapping of the affinities and antinomies at work within the realm of agricultural research, and a consideration of the practices, tools and social and political structures in which agricultural experiments are grounded. Three main questions will be addressed to provide an overview of the complex world of agricultural research investigated by the special issue: What is an agricultural experiment? Who is an experimenter in agriculture? Where do agricultural experiments take place? It will become apparent that agricultural experiments have a wide relevance for human development as they touch upon concerns related to human health and nutrition, contribute to policy discussions, and can affect the social and political structures in which farming is embedded.