Monday, December 20, 2010

Three Field Agricultural System

Three Field Agricultural System
Some historians have regarded the innovation of the three field agricultural system in western Europe as the greatest agricultural improvements in the region in all of the Middle Ages. In one sense it can be seen as the beginning of a chain of technical, agricultural and commercial consequences that converted European culture into a hothouse of institutional and technical change.

The three-field system developed rather suddenly, with the first certain reference to is in AD 763, with later references in 783, and many after 800.

Some have suggested that it was thought of by Charlemagne attempted to rename the months: June was to be Plowing Month, July was Haying Month and August was to be Harvest Month.

Prior to the three field system, plowing was done in October and November and the harvest was collected in June or July.

Under the three field system, the land was divided into thirds, with one section planted in the fall with winter wheat or rye. A second section would be planted on the spring with barley, lentils, beans or oats, while the third section of land would be left fallow – that is, to grow in wild weeds.

The next year, the previously fallow field was put in the winter crop; the barley, peas, lentils, bens or oats field was left fallow; and the previous winter crop was planted with the barley, peas, lentils, beans or oats.

Coupled with increased plowing of the fallow fields, agricultural production per working peasant increased by nearly 50 percent.

The system increased the land that a peasant could handle with his labor leading to reclamation of swamps, clearings of forests and the creation of polders or reclaimed land by construction of dikes on locations such as Holland.

Inclusion of oats in the crop rotation system provided food for horses, which were increasingly used in agriculture in Europe, a practice made possible by the introduction of the horse collar and the horseshoe.

The three field system apparently spread from an origin in the region between the Seine River and the Rhine River, then in France.

It spread to Poland, southern Sweden and to the Balkan region in the 13th country and to Hungary by the mid 1300s.

It reached England in the 1100s and was taken from there to Ireland. The ancient Romans and medieval farmers alike recognized that in some fashion, the planting of legumes such as lentils and beans helped the soil.

Not analyzed until centuries later, these plants helped fix nitrogen in the soil, making them a form of natural, self- fertilizing system.

Their addition to the diet provided proteins to which has been attributed a great expansion in population.

With beans and peas, the diet and energy of western Europe improved, influencing the growth of cities and commerce.

With the growth of cities and many in the population freed from providing food, the craftsman arts and sciences could begin to flourish with specialists making thousands of improvements to tools, equipment, methods and technique.
Three Field Agricultural System

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