This chapter discusses the use of energy in traditional farming. The evolution of agriculture appears to be a continuing effort to increase land productivity (to increase digestible energy yield) in order to accommodate larger populations. Owing to the overwhelmingly vegetarian diets of all traditional peasant societies, it is important to focus on the output of digestible energy produced in staple crops in general and grains in particular. The chapter first provides an overview of the link between food energy and the evolution of peasant societies before considering the commonalities and peculiarities of tools and machines used in agronomic practices. It then examines the dominance of grains in traditional agriculture, with particular emphasis on their energy density and nutritional content. It also analyzes routes to gradual intensification of agriculture, along with the persistence and innovation in traditional farming practices. Finally, it assesses the limits and achievements of traditional agriculture.
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