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zompist bboard • View topic - Tropical Agriculture enquiry

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PostPosted: Sun May 03, 2015 4:50 pm 
Sanci
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I'm attempting to get my head around the possibilities for a world, maximalising development according to Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel, maybe using the excellent Jaredia as a base, and I wondered what would the agricultural package look like on an ecologically united world? Particularly the tropical one?



Throwing a butterfly net around alternate evolution, considering crops native to our world, would there be a single crop package over the planet, or would individual cultures remain attached to their original domesticates?

Someone once argued that peoples become very attached to their Domesticates (I think his example was cattle at the northern limit of Norse settlement), from which we could infer that they might not change from a satisfactory crop to a better one.

Would rice dominate the jungle zones?

Terra preta vs rice growing empires?


any thoughts, greatly appreciated


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PostPosted: Sun May 03, 2015 5:13 pm 
Smeric
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I'm not entirely certain he's correct; just look how New World crops have spread around the world. Potatoes became so essential in Ireland that the potato blight caused a nationwide famine. According to Alfred W. Crosby in The Columbian Exchange, taro root become so fundamental to many Central African cultures that the people themselves assumed it was native to Africa. To say nothing of the spread of maize, potatoes, beans, etc. Animals, of course, may be different; I don't think there's a huge llama trade in the Old World, for example (though llamas and emus have both become moderately popular in North America).

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PostPosted: Sun May 03, 2015 6:44 pm 
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What is an "ecologically united world"? Do you mean just one climate type? How would that work?

If you mean just one agricultural package-- say, from one group of settlers on a new world-- well, if all their crops were adapted to only one zone, it'd be difficult to expand. Not impossible-- e.g. rice is best grown in tropical and semitropical areas, but it's also grown in e.g. north China, which is humid continental. But (say) you're not going to easily grow olives in rain forest, or date palms in tundra.


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PostPosted: Mon May 04, 2015 2:02 am 
Sanci
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Hmm it seems I was't too clear - I meant rather that if the tropical zone was dominant/more or less united culturally, what crop package would win out?

Which tropical package is the most attractive?

Rice farming? Cassava? Maize?

Would sapients resist unfamiliar crops?

An example here in Galicia - the potato doesn't seem to have become popular here until 80 years ago (although I do wonder if that was due to the potato blight wiping them out in the 19th century, in which case it was a reintroduction - no evidence for that, just musings out loud). In some of the villages they were called castañas (chestnuts) til the fifties!


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PostPosted: Mon May 04, 2015 1:26 pm 
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I echo zomp: what is an ecologically united world again? a single biome planet a la StarWars? I'm not sure those are especially plausible. Even in a planet with like a lot of greenhouse effect and much more efficient circulation of temperature and whatnot, you'd simply get a lot of different biomes which to the unsophisticated terran might look like whatever [it all looks like jungle, it all looks like desert, it all looks like tundra] but unless you have like a flat world [and even so, a flat world with no wind currents and high geological isotropy] you're gonna get different jungles: depleted soil ones, amazonian-style, colder climate jungles, ones where some sort of tree dominates, one where elephants roam such that it's crisscrossed with paths, ones where fires periodically wipe the slate clean. And don't forget geology: volcanic soils with tiny layers of soil might make for a lot of carnivorous plants and slow-growing vegetation, whereas basins where dirt has accumulated throughout eons will have deeper roots, taller trees, and who knows what else: subterranean moles or something


As for agriculture... well, it obviously depends on the level of development of the productive forces and the quality of the relations of production that the people doing the agriculture exhibit. primitive tropical farmers would use a lot of slash and burn to clear fields, and might as well grow crops that require a lot of water to thrive. more advanced folks might take advantage of the high availability of wood to make terraces out of logs and so make use of hillsides and so on. more patient and systematic farmers could also take advantage of the many products that a well managed forest grows, from fruit and nuts to animals to roots to textiles or whatever else. Agriculture might be a problem in some jungles, since they generally don't get terribly amazing soil, but that gets solved through terra preta or, i dunno, spraying the blood and ground up bodies of our ancestors upon the soil that shall feed our sons circle of life ritual cannibalism body of christ blablabla :P

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PostPosted: Mon May 04, 2015 2:56 pm 
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PostPosted: Mon May 04, 2015 3:30 pm 
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I know plantains are a quite common ingredient in Puerto Rican cooking (and, I imagine, many other places, but when I visited Puerto Rico several years ago, my overwhelming impression of Puerto Rican cuisine was plantains, plantains everywhere!).

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PostPosted: Mon May 04, 2015 4:23 pm 
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PostPosted: Mon May 04, 2015 6:34 pm 
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Yams, taro, sago, amaranth and breadfruit are also worth mentioning.

However, the best option is diversity. A diverse assemblage of crops is nutritionally better (almost all crops are nutritionally deficient in some way or other, so diversity is healthier), and also gives a great deal more security, as the conditions that will make some crops fail (too cold, too wet, too dry) will not make others fail. [So, for instance, money is being invested trying to increase the production of edible acacia in Africa - not because it's a good crop, but because it's wonderfully drought-resistant, and it's worth 'wasting' some agricultural potential on a sub-par crop in good years to have some food available when all your other crops have died in a bad year]. And of course many crops have more than one use. Linseed, for instance, is a better crop than nutrition suggests because it also produces linen. Breadfruit provides fantastic wood for catamaran-building, and is also an insect-repellant. Amaranth provides dyes. Sago starch is used in textile sizing, and so on.

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PostPosted: Tue May 05, 2015 1:57 am 
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Han Chinese have two staple crops: wheat and rice. The two zones are separated by climate zones but they don't divide the people in any obvious ways other than cuisine.


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2016 7:41 pm 
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If you are using Guns, Germs, and Steel as a model, take into account that Jared Diamond says corn is not as beneficial as rice or wheat because it is hand-planted. Rice is also hand-planted. Also take into account that some times a series of mutations of a long period of time affect food yield as well as single mutations that spread over a short period of time.

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