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Unredeemed LandAn Environmental History of Civil War and Emancipation in the Cotton South$
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Erin Stewart Mauldin

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190865177

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190865177.001.0001

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Intensifying Production

Intensifying Production

(p.71) 3 Intensifying Production
Unredeemed Land

Erin Stewart Mauldin

Oxford University Press

Wartime damage intensified cotton production among small farmers. The disappearance of livestock, the increase in rates of animal diseases, and the lack of fencing materials meant that more farmers penned stock. Lapses in cultivation reinvigorated the land through crop rotation and vegetative regrowth, but this created false hopes for cotton yields at a time when preexisting debt posed enormous economic risk. The practice of shifting cultivation became less frequent throughout, but the fertilizers used to replace it did not halt erosion or correct soil-nutrient imbalances in the same way. Intensification gradually worsened farmers’ prospects. The environmental changes wrought by the war meant that southerners faced the “reconstruction” of their agricultural landscape without several cornerstones of the antebellum land-use regime. White farmers had to operate within the environmental limitations they had previously been able to circumvent, causing them to abandon food and livestock production in favor of cotton.

Keywords:   hog cholera, deforestation, logging, fertilizer, land abandonment, livestock, cotton, yeomen, open range, agricultural science

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