The history of agriculture in Peru dates back to several thousand years. One of the biggest landmarks in Peruvian agricultural history is the country’s contribution of the potato to the rest of the world. There are over 3,000 types of potatoes grown in Peru. Along with this vegetable, Peru has also contributed around hundred and twenty domesticated plants. Peru is also known for cotton and the Pima and the Tanguis produced here are among the world’s finest cotton.
Mainly, the biggest populations of the country have been in the coastal regions, which have 2 parallel mountain ranges and over 20 rivers running within the coastal region. During the wet seasons, the rivers have provided most of the sustenance necessary for agriculture and during the dry seasons it is the mountains that are ideal for agriculture.
The Incas And Their Influence On Agriculture In Peru
One of the biggest obstacles to almost anything the Incas did was the extremely severe climate but this civilization came out on top of everything and agriculture was no different. Their innovations and practices are continuing to amaze modern day agriculturists too.
Turning the Andes into waterways and fertile lands was an almost miraculous feat and the Incas achieved this through constructing irrigation channels, terrace farms and cisterns through the mountains. In fact, terrace farms constituted almost a million hectares at the height of Incan power. With a combination of natural sturdiness and climate, the Incans also “created” extremely robust crops like potatoes, corn and quinoa. The other crops grown predominantly by Peruvian agriculture are coffee, maize, asparagus and rice. Crops like squash was domesticated by Peru about ten thousand years ago, and cotton around 6000 years ago. Along with peanuts, these crops were cultivated by the A’anchoc civilization. In recent times, Peru has managed to cultivate crops like sweet onions and mangos as well.
One of the biggest destructive influences on Peruvian agriculture was the Spanish conquest which saw people being put to work in the mines rather than on agricultural land and war and disease wiped out a big portion of the astonishing engineering and agricultural knowledge that the Incans had.
The ancient technology and methodology of using aqueducts and terrace farming were carried on by the Chavin and the Moche also.
Some Unique Features of Peruvian Agriculture
One of the big factors that has shaped the history of agriculture in Peru has been its rather unique climate zone thanks to the Humboldt current. It has had mixed impact on Peruvian agriculture. The cold Humboldt was one of the major causes for the extinction of the fishing industry in Peru but with its flow pattern has also brought rich nutrients for plant life from the floor of the Pacific to the country’s shores.
Guano has also played a role in the agriculture scenario of the country. During the nineteenth century, Incans used guano for fertilizer and gunpowder, but with the loss of guano to Chile, the country has faced limited supply of this fertilizer.
Considering the lack of arable land in the country, it is indeed remarkable that Peru has so much information, produce and technology to offer to the world.
Modern History of Peruvian Agriculture
The terrace structures can still be seen in the mountain faces as distinct but thin green lines. Archaeological research is contributing to the resurgence of interest in the irrigation systems that once reigned supreme. For instance, the work done by Dr. Tom Dillehay and his research team has helped uncover canals around 300 miles from Lima. Traces of four canals have been found and one of them is more than 6,700 years old.