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Energy and CivilizationA History$
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Vaclav Smil

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780262035774

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262035774.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM MIT PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.mitpress.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright The MIT Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in MITSO for personal use.date: 06 July 2022

Traditional Farming

Traditional Farming

(p.49) 3 Traditional Farming
Energy and Civilization

Vaclav Smil

The MIT Press

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.

Keywords:   energy, diets, grains, food energy, peasant societies, traditional agriculture, energy density, nutrition, agricultural intensification, innovation

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