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Asian farming maximizes space and time

Transplanting rice in ChinaTraditional Chinese agriculture made extremely efficient use of space and time.  One trick they used was to apply heavy inputs of organic fertilizer, allowing crop plants to be spaced very close together.  (More on the fertilizers tomorrow.)

Farmers also used several techniques to tease two to four crops out of their farm each year.  They started most plants in seed beds so that space in the main part of the farm was left open for an early season crop.  A typical rotation might include early season beans, followed by a grain (such as the rice shown here).  During the final month of a grain's growth period, a third crop (like cotton) was often interplanted so that the cotton could get a few weeks' head start on the fall season.  Those of us who are lax about our fall gardens should take heed!

As we all know, animals require about five times as much land per calorie as vegetables do, so it should come as no surprise that the traditional Chinese diet is very low on meat.  King noted that the primary meat animal was pigs, which he explains convert plant matter to meat at the most efficient rate.

And how about tree crops?  The best example of space-saving orcharding in the book was the technique Japanese farmers used to raise pear trees.  The branches were trained to grow horizontally along an arbor just high enough off the ground that farmers could walk underneath and easily pick the fruit.  Trees were spaced just twelve feet apart, and the dense foliage shaded out most undergrowth.  The technique sounds a lot like espaliered fruit trees to me.

Shameless plug for Mark's homemade chicken waterer here....

This post is part of our Traditional Asian Farming lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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