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Old April 19th, 2017, 07:07 PM   #1

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Agriculture in Europe and Asia


How did the agriculture in Europe differ to the crops and agriculture in the various parts of Asia through out history Ancient and medieval.
Specifically East and South Asia, I'm not not talking about the Near East.
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Old April 19th, 2017, 08:12 PM   #2

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Agriculture is a very vague statement. Technique, technology, plant varieties, percentage of population devoted to it? Like when you say "crops", do you mean the species of plant that they planted for food, or what they planted for cash crops, how they took care of their crops, or something else?

Also an old thread I wrote on Han era agricultural technology and technique: Han dynasty agriculture

Last edited by HackneyedScribe; April 19th, 2017 at 08:37 PM.
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Old April 20th, 2017, 12:17 AM   #3

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Thanks for the comment,

I'm talking about the the difference say in planting techniques and the difference from Asian (East and South) crops in comparison to Europe and more to be honest I just want to find out how Asians were able to sustain such large populations in the past and even still to this day, I know for a fact agriculture is the reason so, any information will be nice too I guess.

Thanks for the Hans dynasty agriculture link.
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Old April 20th, 2017, 05:18 PM   #4

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In terms of crops, Europe stuck with mostly wheat from the beginning, wheat was highly resistant to cold, in fact some varieties of wheat needed cold to germinate. In East Asia, it was millet in the North and rice in the South. The North suffers from unpredictable weather, including droughts. However, millet was known for being drought resistant so it was suitable in the North for that reason. In the South, where it was wet and humid, it wasn't surprising that the main food crop would be rice. As time went on, wheat became the in-between crop for both the North and the South, because it germinates at a different season than millet and rice. So wheat could be planted after millet/rice was harvested. Eventually, wheat replaced millet in the North, probably because as population boomed, the small-time farming family had fewer and fewer acres, which switched to a focus on more intensive farming (putting more investment on each acre of land rather than spreading your investment across more acres of land).

What underlay the spread of the early ripening seeds and played a key role in the driving up total grain outputs was the domination of wheat and rice as the most essential staple crops in the centuries after the Rebellion. From earlier periods, although both rice and wheat were planted in China, millet was the main crop that claimed the largest share of grain consumption. Even though the productivity of rice and wheat per acre was much higher than millet, they could not have exerted much impact until enough labor and capital could be invested. The availability of the latter facotrs was the signal that intensive farming could finally take root. As the majority of the Chinese population was concentrated in the north during the early Song, the demand for grain in the South was not so great as to require intensive farming, and rice was still grown in an extensive way.

Before the introduction of intensive farming, millet was undoubtedly the preferred staple crop over wheat and rice. Millet required less rainfall during the growing season and could maintain low but stable yields regardless of drought and sterile land. The dominant position of millet was clearly documented in the Tang regulations on the zu-yong-diao taxation and grain storage. In fact, the word zu literally means a 2 shi millet tax duty levied on each male adult per year. Even up to the eve of the Rebellion, millet was considered the standard payment among grain taxes. In 628 AD, the court decided to establish the benevolent granaries (yicang) across the country as a relief effort in times of drought and famine. This policy required farmers to pay millet at the rate of 0.02 shi per mu. Only in the south was rice admitted as a substitution.
- The Chinese Market Economy by William Guanglin Liu, pg 175

So crops in and of itself merely give tradeoffs. For most of Chinese ancient history, where most of the population lived in the north which suffered from unpredictable periods of drought, millet was chosen to be the main stable crop for its drought resistance. But millet suffers from low yield per acre. No gain comes without a loss, everything's a tradeoff. Because millet provided a stable but low yield per acre, the Chinese had to find ways to increase yield per acre.

One of them being precision seeding. Plant in rows, and then bury the seed.

Click the image to open in full size.

Note how ~7 seeds are put in each spot? Once the seeds start growing, the farmers will look at which seed in each group of 7 seeds grows best. He keeps that one and pulls out the rest so the 'top' seed won't have to compete for nutrients.

if the crops are grown in rows they will mature rapidly because they will not interfere with each other’s growth. The horizontal rows must be well drawn, the vertical rows made with skill, for if the lines are straight the wind will pass gently through.” -Master Lu's Spring and Autumn Manual of the 3rd century BC

And if you don't have a seeding machine, you have one person poke holes into the ground with a stick and have another person put seeds into those holes by hand:

Click the image to open in full size.

It was either this or broadcast seeding, in which you throw seed by hand:

Click the image to open in full size.

Chao Kuo seemed to be a Han era official who made major cntributions in improving crop yields.

From Han Agriculture, pg 296: He[Wudi] made Chao Kuo the chief commandant for grain. Kuo knew how to make tai-t'ien, or "alternating land," in which one mu had three furrows whose position was exchanged yearly. Hence it was named alternating land. This was an old method, Hou chi being the first to arrange fields with furrows. Two ssu were paired, making a trench one ch'ih wide and one sh'ih deep, which was called a "furrow". It extended the length of a mu. With three furrours to a mu, a fu contained three hundred furrows. The seeds were sown in these furrows. After the shoots sprouted more than three leaves, the ridges were lightly weeded. While this was being done.....Kuo experimented by having the guards at the detached palaces till the side lots of the palaces. A check of their harvest showed that they all obtained over a hu per mu more than adjoining fields. He ordered that the soldiers teach their relatives to cultivate the government lands of the three metropolitan districts. He also taught the border commanderies and of Chu-yen city. Later he also taught the people of the border cities, of Ho-tung and Hung-nung commanderies, and the three metropolitan districts, and of the territory under the jurisdiction of the grand minister of ceremonies; all found the tai-t'ien system advantageous. They expended less labor and obtained more grain - Han Shu

Emperor Wu appointed Chao Kuo the chief commandant for grain; he taught the people faring. According to his method, three plows are pulled together by one ox. One person leads the ox, handles the plows, and hauls the seeder-all taken care of by himself. In one day he plants 100 mu. Down to today the three metropolitan districts still rely upon the benefits of his method. Now the cultivating plow in the commandery of Liao-tung has a beam four ch'ih long that hinders it in turning about. Two oxen are used; two persons lead the oxen and one handles the plow. One sows the seed, and two haul the seeder. In all, they use two oxens and six persons; in one day they can only plant 25 mu. Such is the disparity. - [CHHW46:11a-b ---This passage is one part of the now-lost book, Cheng-lun[Essays on politics] written by Ts’ui Shih. The passage is preserved in a quotation in the Ch’i-min-yao-shu and the TPYL.From Han Agriculture, pg 296

On Food of China, pg 48:
Fan Sheng-chih’s agricultural manual of the first century B.C. (Hsu 1980: 280-94; Shih 1959) survives in extensive fragments quoted in later agricultural works. Some of the most elaborate procedures described in Fan’s manual indicate how intensive Han agriculture was:
1. Multiple cropping (winter wheat or barley followed by millet or another summer crop) was common, though not by any means universal.
2. Pretreatment of seed is discussed at length in the manual. Seed was steeped in fertilizer made from cooked bones, manure, or silkworm debris, to which aconite or other plant poisons were added. The seeds were repeatedly covered with coats of this paste; care had to be taken to dry them between thin coatings so they did not rot (In the West, pretreated seed is considered a modern laboratory miracle, innovated only in the last couple of decades.)
3. Not only was rice irrigated and its paddies leveled, but the circulation of water was changed by rerouting the channels during the year, so the water would be warm in spring but not hot in summer.
4. An elaborate and effective water-trapping system was used on the dry fields of the North: Soil was repeatedly pulverized in summer, creating a dust mulch that held water. In winter, snow was rolld down to keept it from blowing away. Fan notes that this practice also freezes and kills insect eggs that would otherwise survive the winter.
5. Cultivation in pits (which traps moisture) was practiced. Gourds in pits were cut back to keep the fruit large, and straw was put under each gourd so it would not rot from contact with west soil. Larger shallower pits were dug for grain; they produced yields of 100 hu per mu.
6. In areas were drainage rather than moisture conservation was a problem, ridge cultivation – the ancestor of the intensive methods used in China today—was practiced.
7. Pot irrigation was practiced on crops that were not canal irrigated.
8. Fen’s manual offers exceedingly detailed and precise timing of fertilization, watering, planting, and so on
9. Everything with any nitrogen content seems to have been carefully saved and used for fertilizer. A whole science of what fertilizer was best for what crop at what stage is embodied in the manual.
10. Knowledge of the soils best suited to each crop was almost as extensive as it is today.
11. Iron tools became common, diverse, and sophisticated, raising productivity.

Last edited by HackneyedScribe; April 20th, 2017 at 05:44 PM.
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Old April 20th, 2017, 05:40 PM   #5

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.
Each location developed genetic variations of the staple crop
cold and drought are the only limits , usually , though I always thought that susceptibility to infection and insects could be important


while Rice and wheat are the dominant crops , as mentioned other crops were grown when the growing conditions dictated it .
millet was north Asia mainstay , while northern and western Europe grew a lot of of the hardy Buckwheat from Brittany and Ireland to Scandinavia and Russia

this was prior to the great potato revolution

the production and return of a crop directly affect the state power ,
more food means more population, revenues ,power to raise soldiers ...
the rise of Prussia from a cold and marshy backwater was in no small part due to the potato cultivation ,
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Old April 20th, 2017, 05:43 PM   #6

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The following are not related with improving yield per acre, but it's helpful to have in a farm.

Here is the rotary winnowing fan so you don't have to wait for a windy day to start winnowing:

Click the image to open in full size.
Click the image to open in full size.
^Earliest depictions are found in Han-era tombs

Click the image to open in full size.

As opposed to throwing it in the air, and using the natural wind to blow away the unwanted parts:

Click the image to open in full size.

Picture depicting a wheelbarrow, Eastern Han era:

Click the image to open in full size.

The wheel is on the front. Later Chinese wheelbarrows tend to have wheels in the middle, which is better for taking on heavier weights.

By the Han dynasty, waterwheels were used to pound grain, push bellows for blast furnaces, and one waterwheel even powered a moving armillary sphere. These technologies probably developed from their use of animal power for providing movement to their machinery. And how do you use animal power? By making cows/horses/mules/donkeys walk in a circle, round and round, and transferring that rotating power into another form of more useful movement. The next step is just to dunk that "rotational movement" into a river, and voila, you got a horizontal waterwheel. Flip it 90 degrees and it's a vertical waterwheel.

The picture isn't from the Han dynasty through:

Click the image to open in full size.

Xin Lun (New Discourses) of Huan Tan (c. AD 20):
Fu Xi invented the pestle and mortar, which is so useful, and later on it was cleverly improved in such a way that the whole weight of the body could be used for treading on the tilt-hammer, thus increasing the efficiency ten times. Afterwards the power of animals - donkeys, mules, oxen and horses - was applied by means of machinery, and water-power too used for pounding, so that the benefit was increased a hundredfold.

Water powered textile machinery:

Click the image to open in full size.

Iron moldboard for a plough:

Click the image to open in full size.

Han stone reliefs found in Theng-hsien, Shantung and Sui-ning, Kansu also feature adjustable struts, so they could determine the depth of furrows without relying solely on altering the pressure on the stilt. (Needham, Science and Civilization Volume 5, Chemistry and Chemical Technology, pg 169-180)

Click the image to open in full size.

Drawloom miniature found in a Han era grave. Weaving would be delegated to the women of the household:

Click the image to open in full size.

What it would have looked like under better conditions:

Click the image to open in full size.

Other drawlooms were simpler. Like the one below, but the picture also shows a spindle wheel:

Click the image to open in full size.

Note how the feet helps work the drawloom.

Last edited by HackneyedScribe; April 20th, 2017 at 06:52 PM.
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Old April 20th, 2017, 06:34 PM   #7

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Double post

Last edited by The Reality; April 20th, 2017 at 06:38 PM.
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Old April 20th, 2017, 06:38 PM   #8

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Quote:
Originally Posted by HackneyedScribe View Post
The following are not related with improving yield per acre, but it's helpful to have in a farm.

Here is the rotary winnowing fan so you don't have to wait for a windy day to start winnowing:

Click the image to open in full size.
Click the image to open in full size.
^Earliest depictions are found in Han-era tombs

Click the image to open in full size.

As opposed to throwing it in the air, and using the natural wind to blow away the unwanted parts:

Click the image to open in full size.

Picture depicting a wheelbarrow, Eastern Han era:

Click the image to open in full size.

The wheel is on the front. Later Chinese wheelbarrows tend to have wheels in the middle, which is better for taking on heavier weights.

By the Han dynasty, waterwheels were used to pound grain, push bellows for blast furnaces, and one waterwheel even powered a moving armillary sphere. These technologies probably developed from their use of animal power for providing movement to their machinery. And how do you use animal power? By making cows/horses/mules/donkeys walk in a circle, round and round, and transferring that rotating power into another form of more useful movement. The next step is just to dunk that "rotational movement" into a river, and voila, you got a horizontal waterwheel. Flip it 90 degrees and it's a vertical waterwheel.

The picture isn't from the Han dynasty through:

Click the image to open in full size.

Xin Lun (New Discourses) of Huan Tan (c. AD 20):
Fu Xi invented the pestle and mortar, which is so useful, and later on it was cleverly improved in such a way that the whole weight of the body could be used for treading on the tilt-hammer, thus increasing the efficiency ten times. Afterwards the power of animals - donkeys, mules, oxen and horses - was applied by means of machinery, and water-power too used for pounding, so that the benefit was increased a hundredfold.

Water powered textile machinery:

Click the image to open in full size.

Iron moldboard for a plough:

Click the image to open in full size.

Drawloom miniature found in a Han era grave. Weaving would be delegated to the women of the household:

Click the image to open in full size.

What it would have looked like under better conditions:

Click the image to open in full size.
Thanks a mill for all the posts man, your posts have been extremely helpful

Last edited by The Reality; April 20th, 2017 at 06:40 PM.
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Old April 20th, 2017, 06:43 PM   #9

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Welcome. And since you are bringing mills into this , here's a Jin dynasty waterwheel that powers not only a mill to the right, but trip hammers to the left:

Click the image to open in full size.

Here is another picture (Ming era, I think) showing a single waterwheel providing the motive power for multiple mills:

Click the image to open in full size.


This one is interesting, because it shows an animal powered horizontal wheel connected to the mill by a belt drive. Why not just connect the animal to the mill? Because an animal can only turn in a circle so fast. By using the belt drive, each 360 degree rotation made by the animal could mean multiple rotations made by the mill itself.

Click the image to open in full size.

Belt drives were also combined with waterwheels to power blast furnaces, converting rotary motion into push motion.

Click the image to open in full size.

Albeit waterwheel driven furnaces were already existent during the Han dynasty.

Also, by the Eastern Han iron production technology improved. From the Hou Hanshu: "In the seventh year of the Chien-Wu reign period (31 AD) Tu Shih was posted to be Prefect of Nanyang. He was a generous man and his policies were peaceful; he destroyed evil-doers and established the dignity (of his office). Good at planning, he loved the common people and wished to save their labor. He invented a water-power reciprocator for the casting of (iron) agricultural implements. Those who smelted and cast already had the push-bellows to blow up their charcoal fires, and now they were instructed to use the rushing of the water to operate it"

Last edited by HackneyedScribe; April 20th, 2017 at 07:42 PM.
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Old April 20th, 2017, 06:45 PM   #10

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Quote:
Originally Posted by sparky View Post
.
Each location developed genetic variations of the staple crop
cold and drought are the only limits , usually , though I always thought that susceptibility to infection and insects could be important


while Rice and wheat are the dominant crops , as mentioned other crops were grown when the growing conditions dictated it .
millet was north Asia mainstay , while northern and western Europe grew a lot of of the hardy Buckwheat from Brittany and Ireland to Scandinavia and Russia

this was prior to the great potato revolution

the production and return of a crop directly affect the state power ,
more food means more population, revenues ,power to raise soldiers ...
the rise of Prussia from a cold and marshy backwater was in no small part due to the potato cultivation ,
Thanks for the info
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