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The Plough that Broke the SteppesAgriculture and Environment on Russia's Grasslands, 1700-1914$
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David Moon

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199556434

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199556434.001.0001

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(p.242) 8 Agronomy
The Plough that Broke the Steppes

David Moon

Oxford University Press

With the failure of tree planting and irrigation, Russians turned to agronomy. Over the nineteenth century, Russian agronomists and other scientists realised that relying on agricultural sciences from western Europe was not appropriate for the very different conditions in the steppe region, and that they needed to devise techniques appropriate to the environment, in particular, cultivating the land in ways that conserved scarce moisture in the soil. Dokuchaev, among other scientists, advocated sustainable farming techniques based on scientific study of the steppe environment. The pioneers, again, were Mennonites, as well as specialist agronomists. Attention in the chapter focuses on crop rotations and types of crops, ploughing techniques, fallowing, in particular ‘black fallow’. Taken together, these techniques were a system of dry farming. The final section of the chapter considers the extent to which agronomists backed by the authorities succeeded in spreading the word of these techniques, for example through agricultural extension services. Many farmers preferred to plough up as much land as possible and take a chance on the rains coming.

Keywords:   agronomy, agricultural sciences, sustainability, Mennonites, crop rotations, crops, ploughing techniques, black fallow, agricultural extension services

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