Mediterranean and West European pre-modern agriculture (agriculture
before 1600) was by necessity 'organic agriculture'. Crop
protection is part and parcel of this agriculture, with weed
control in the forefront. Crop protection is embedded in the
medieval agronomy text books but specialised sections do occur.
Weeds, insects and diseases are described but identification in
modern terms is not easy. The pre-modern 'Crop Portfolio' is well
filled, certainly in the Mediterranean area. The medieval 'Pest
Portfolio' differs from the modern one because agriculture then was
a Low External Input Agriculture, and because the proportion of
cultivated to non-cultivated land was drastically lower than today.
The pre-modern 'Control Portfolio' is surprisingly rich, both in
preventive and interventive measures. Prevention was by risk
management, intensive tillage, and careful storage. Intervention
was mechanical and chemical. Chemical intervention used natural
substances such as sulphur, pitch, and 'botanicals'. Some fifty
plant species are mentioned in a crop protection context. Though
application methods look rather modern they are typically low-tech.
Among them are seed disinfection, spraying, dusting, fumigation,
grease banding, wound care, and hand-picking but also
scarification, now outdated. The reality of pest outbreaks and
other damages is explored as to frequency, intensity, and extent.
Information on the practical use of the recommended treatments is
scanty. If applied, their effectiveness remains enigmatic. Three
medieval agronomists are at the heart of this book, but historical
developments in crop protection from early Punic, Greek, and Roman
authors to the first modern author are outlined. The readership of
these writers was the privileged class of landowners but hints
pointing to the exchange of ideas between them and the common
peasant were found. Consideration is given to the pre-modern
reasoning in matters of crop protection. Comparison of pre-modern
crop protection and its counterpart in modern organic agriculture
is difficult because of drastic changes in the relation between
crop areas and non-crop areas, and because of the great difference
in yield levels then and now, with several associated differences.
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