No. 26: THREE-FIELD chop ROTATION by john H. Lienhard

Click below for audio of illustration 26.

Today, we learn how the equine was put to work. The college of Houston"s college of design presents this collection about the equipments that make our civilization run, and also the human being whose ingenuity produced them.

western Europe was a quite primitive location until a couple of centuries after the fatality of the roman inn empire. When it arised as a new civilization, that did so due to the fact that medieval engineers occurred water and wind power and ultimately did much more with it 보다 the Romans had ever done with servant power.

however this had to wait until European farming became productive enough to support towns with masons and also artisans -- world who did an ext than simply labor for food. And that in turn forced a much more powerful beast than the plodding ox to traction plows with the heavy wet north European soil. It compelled that the horse be combined into european farming.

horses were bred in an excellent numbers for military use in Europe indigenous the center of the 8th century on; however three points made it difficult to usage them because that farming. Their hooves became soft and easily pains in wet soil. Once they were harnessed in an ox yoke, your wind was reduced off by any type of heavy load. And the steed needed a much better diet than an ox -- the couldn"t just graze grass, it had to have actually protein.

The nailed horseshoe and also the horsecollar fixed two that these troubles when lock were introduced in the 9th century. The solution to the trouble of feeding the equine was more complicated, however it also followed in the ninth century. The solution went like this:

Ninth-century farmers provided two fields -- one active at a given time, and also the other one idle (or fallow). This retained them native robbing the floor of nutrients and also leaving it unproductive. Climate someone found that a field can be provided two years out of three if it to be planted through one chop in the fall and also a different crop in the spring, a year and a half later.

This expected farmers had actually to break your holdings into three fields -- one to it is in planted through wheat or rye in the fall, for human consumption; a 2nd to be offered in the spring to raise peas, beans, and also lentils for human being use and also oats and also barley because that the horses. The third field lay fallow. Yearly this use was rotated amongst the 3 fields. We remember the spring planting in the nursery rhyme:

execute you, perform I, go anyone know, just how oats, peas, beans, and barley grow? The odd thing is the this clever scheme took 200 year to adopt. The horseshoe and the horsecollar where put to use directly. However three-field crop rotation required world to rearrange real estate and to change their society order. For all its potential advantages, that was really hard to implement, and the great rebirth of European people that it led to was delayed until the 11th century.

however that sort of thing is no suprise to us -- we confront the social difficulties of adapting to technical change every day.

I"m man Lienhard, at the university of Houston, where we"re interested in the way inventive mental work.

(Theme music) White, L., Jr., Medieval modern technology and society Change. New York: Oxford college Press, 1966.

See likewise Episodes 540 and also 571 for more recent thinking about the beginnings of agriculture.

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This episode has been revised and also expanded as episode 1318.

Three-Field crop Rotation Schedule




Sketches by john Lienhard