Long-range forecasts: Linseed oil and the hemispheric movement of market and climate data, 1890–1939

Joshua MacFadyen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Crop and weather forecasting are some of the least predictable elements of agri-business, and public and private sector interests have developed different approaches to improving results in each area. This article examines how organisations produced, acquired, and shared the environmental knowledge they needed for success in the increasingly global supply chains of agri-business. Crop knowledge was extensive and growing in the late nineteenth century, including a series of nascent forecasting methods. Climate knowledge was limited and retreating because of underfunding and spurious theories about solar radiation. But the records of Archer-Daniels-Midland (ADM) and crop scientists in the Northern Great Plains show that linseed oil manufacturers created extensive knowledge networks to gather crop and some climate information in almost real time. Business associations served an asymmetrical role in these knowledge networks, and some manufacturers, like the members of the Flax Development Committee, treated scientists as a crop reporting service. As Argentina became a major linseed producer the US oilseed sector used public and private intermediaries to develop specialized knowledge of grassland agriculture in both the Prairies and the Pampas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1010-1033
Number of pages24
JournalBusiness History
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 3 2017


  • ADM
  • Argentina
  • Great Plains
  • agri-business
  • environmental knowledge
  • forecasting
  • intermediaries
  • linseed oil

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)
  • History


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