Systematic agriculture is an ancient practice, believed to have originated in the Middle East and North Africa some 11,000 years ago. Its notion is to domesticate crops, plants and animals to improve food production. This primitive practice quickly spread worldwide and has been fundamental to the development and success of many societies. With this being said, it is quite evident that it has had an extensive and important impact on modern-day society.
The cradle of this farming tradition is said to have been the Fertile Crescent. This area was conveniently located between the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf, making the soil ideal for agriculture and their strict reliance on systematic agriculture indispensable. They developed many soil conservation measures, allowing for multiple harvests during the same year. The first use of irrigation canals was also pioneered here, with the qanat system developed by the Persians.
Another cradle of systematic agriculture was the Chinese population around the Yangtze River, where major advances in arable land and crop rotation were attained. Crop rotation is the process of changing the field usage of crops, preventing them from becoming scarce. This provided a solid foundation for the use of legumes, herbs, and many other plants to flourish. This enabled them to increase yields and reinforced the idea that farming was necessary to support a growing population.
Elsewhere, the practice of systematic agriculture spread through India, Europe and the Americas. Primarily, the Indus Valley where river beds were used to start primitive systems of irrigation. The Ancient Greeks were renowned for perfecting terracing of hillsides, helping to contain soil erosion, eventually adopted by the Roman Empire as well.
The Native Americans were one of the most influential groups in developing systematic agriculture on their continent. Ancient civilizations such as the Aztecs, the Mayans, and the Incas all developed advanced techniques, including the use of terracing, irrigation, and crop rotation. It wasn’t until the arrival of the Europeans, nevertheless, when they were able to perfect the use of natural fertilizers, adopted from the Old World.
Farming in Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa is home to the oldest evidence of farming in the world. This practice started in the west and central African region, gradually making its way eastward. Farming began here as early as 12000 BC, with evidence of cultivation of perennial plants and possibly grains. A variety of techniques were invented such as soil management, pest control, and the use of ox-drawn ploughs, which helped to increase yields. Agriculture has remained an integral part of African society to this day.
In the Arab world, systematic agriculture is an ancient science, dating back to the Sumerian and Babylonian Empires. However, it was the Islamic Golden Age where significant development in its practices was attained. Major advances were made in the use of irrigation irrigation canals, crop rotation, and soil conservation. Arabs advised farmers to only plant crops that were suitable to the environment they were in, and rotate the crops they planted to reduce soil depletion.
Middle East Systematic Agriculture
The Middle East was another region where the concept of systematic agriculture was fully embraced. In this area, the practice of terracing was perfected to use the land more efficiently while retaining the quality of the soil. This allowed them to gain maximum yield from the land, resulting in a bumper harvest. Farmers also used animal manure and human waste as fertilizers to increase the quality and yield of their crops.
Far East Systematic Agriculture
In the Far East, the Chinese were the primary recipients of this practice of farming. As mentioned earlier, they achieved major advances in the practice of terracing, irrigation, and crop rotation. This enabled the Chinese to increase their yields significantly, contributing to their power and prestige in the region. The Ancient Japanese also used advanced techniques, such as crop rotation and terracing, to preserve the fertility of their soil, in addition to using human and animal manure as fertilizer.
South East Asia Systematic Agriculture
In South East Asia systematic agriculture has a long history of development, beginning as early as the Neolithic period. It was the Khmer Empire of present-day Cambodia that began the practice of large-scale irrigation with the use of the barays system. This enabled farmers to maximize the use of available land while using the natural resources of the region to the fullest.
UK Systematic Agriculture
In the UK systematic agriculture began with the arrival of the Romans. They made considerable advances in the practice, such as agricultural farming practices, in addition to implementing crop rotation and soil conservation measures. In the medieval era, it was the Norman Conquest of England that enabled systematic agriculture to reach its peak. This allowed for the introduction of new types of crops, such as hops and barley, and a triennial crop rotation system.
India Systematic Agriculture
In India, systematic agriculture dates back to the Indus Valley Civilisation. During this period a number of techniques were established to increase yields, such as terracing, crop rotation, and irrigation. This allowed farmers to create larger harvests, which was needed to support populations of the growing dynasty. Furthermore, the invention of iron ploughs and the practice of animal husbandry were two other developments that allowed for the growth of this agricultural tradition.