Three-field system

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The three-field system is a regime of crop rotation in use in medieval and early-modern Europe from around the time of Charlemagne. Crop rotation is the practice of growing a series of similar types of crops in the same area in sequential seasons, but farmers were not allowed to choose their crop but had to farm what was being grown in that field. Under this system, the arable land of an estate or village was divided into three large fields: one was planted in the autumn with winter wheat or rye; the second field was planted with other crops such as peas, lentils, or beans; and the third was left fallow, in order to allow the soil of that field to regain its nutrients. With each rotation, the field would be used differently, so that a field would be planted for two out of the three years used, whilst one year it "rested". This allowed farmers to plant more crops and therefore to increase production. With more crops available to sell, this also helped the economy in general to thrive. The introduction of the three-field system and the adoption of the moldboard plow were parallel developments which worked hand in hand to increase the productivity of the land.

One of the first Germans to question this system, and new ways of expanding beyond this medieval system was Johann Friedrich Mayer, in his 1769 work Lehre vom Gyps als vorzueglich guten Dung zu allen Erd-Gewaechsen auf Aeckern und Wiesen, Hopfen- und Weinbergen.[1]


  1. ^ Roeber, A. G. (1998). Palatines, Liberty, and Property: German Lutherans in Colonial British America. p. 58.