Seventeenth-Century Organic Agriculture in China
The quest for sustainable, high-yield agriculture which is not dependent on costly and polluting artificial inputs has occupied a number of ecologists and agricultural development experts over the past two decades. Wen Dazhong and David Pimentel offer a contribution by looking to China’s past using documentation from the seventeenth century relating to Zhejiang province. They examine a number of different techniques, including crop rotation, paddy rice production using either fertilization by compost or green manure, winter crops, mulberry-silkworm production, and livestock. The authors were able to discover documentation providing quantitative figures for a great variety of inputs and yields, and can trace quantitatively the energy flows through the systems described. This study is unusual for the degree of precision in numerical data it is able to provide, offering us a window on the past and an alternative to experimentation for the discovery of beneficial techniques of agriculture. With this information at hand, farmers in the region have a better basis to decide whether to attempt to apply techniques that were useful in the past, knowing the requirements, and the outcome.
KeywordsGreen Manure Paddy Rice Seventeenth Century Labor Input Winter Crop
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