Key Concept 3.3 Increased Economic Productive Capacity and its Consequences

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"Changes in trade networks resulted from and stimulated increasing productive capacity, with important implications for social and gender structures and environmental processes. Productivity rose in both agriculture and industry. Rising productivity supported population growth and urbanization but also strained environmental resources and at times caused dramatic demographic swings. Shifts in production and the increased volume of trade also stimulated new labor practices, including adaptation of existing patterns of free and coerced labor. Social and gender structures evolved in response to these changes." [1]

I. Innovations stimulated agricultural and industrial production in many regions.
A. There was an enormous increase in agriculture during this time period because farming technologies and practices advanced to new levels. This is true of many areas in the world. In China, the Tang Dynasty invaded Vietnam. There
Oryza sativa of Kadavoor.jpg
they discovered a variety of rice that ripens in less than 60 days. The Chinese transplanted this Champa rice, as it is called, back to China where it increased the food supply by allowing two harvests in a single season. In some southern areas of China Champa rice could be harvested three times in a single growing season. It would be the Song Dynasty who benefited the most from the diffusion of new varieties of rice and Champa rice is directly connected to China's dramatic urban growth during the Song.

A chinampa in modern day Mexico.
Mesoamerica the Aztecs pioneered another innovation in food production by turning shallow lakes into productive agricultural centers. By raking the muck from the bottom of the lake into mounds that rose above the surface, they could use these small fertile "islands" to grow crops. During normal conditions, the problem of irrigation was non-existent. This chinampa field system allowed the marshy wetlands around Lake Texoco to be used for growing beans, maize, squash, peppers and tomatoes.

In the Andean areas of South America, the Peruvians developed the waru waru system of agriculture which was directly opposite of the chinampa system. Living thousands of feet above sea level, water supply was scarce and drought a consistent problem. Rather than raising islands above the water, the Peruvians raised beds of soil and collected fluvial water or rainwater around the beds to keep them irrigated and control erosion.

The Peruvian Waru Waru system of Agriculture

The Incan method of terracing
Terraced farms in Peru
technique used in the mountains of South America and East Asia was terracing. The steep incline of a mountain side was sculpted into concentric flat platforms that allowed agriculture to be planted adopted they it never could before.

Farmers in Western Europe reorganized their patterns of planting fields to increase production. Typically, farmers would plant half of their land and let the other half recover from the previous year (letting it lie fallow.) This meant farms operated at 50 percent efficiency. To improve this situation, farmers devised the three field system. By dividing their land into thirds and rotating only one third fallow, farmers theoretically increased their efficiency to 67 percent. Adding to production increase was the use of iron plows and a harness that allowed several horses to be used simultaneous for power plowing.

In all these cases, people used technology and techniques to deal with nature's deficiencies. By interacting with their environment in innovative ways, agricultural production soared, urban growth was supported, and societies became more stratified.