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Agronomiya stepi: razvitie “sukhogo zemledeliya” v Rossiiskoi imperii

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Translated title of the contributionAgronomy for the Steppe
Translated subtitle of the contributionThe development of ‘dry farming’ in the Russian Empire

Publication details

JournalVestnik Sankt-Peterburgskogo Universiteta, Seriya 2, Istoriya
DateAccepted/In press - 30 Mar 2018
DatePublished (current) - 19 Jun 2018
Issue number2
Number of pages19
Pages (from-to)378-396
Original languageRussian


The aim of this article is to analyze on the basis of archival and printed sources from both Russia and the United States the development of ‘dry farming’ techniques for cultivating grain crops in regions, such as the steppes and the American Great Plains with semi-arid climates, where the average, annual precipitation was around or under 400 mm, which was lower than in other agricultural regions in both countries, and also unreliable, varying sharply from year to year. Both regions also experienced periodic droughts. The focus of the article is on the steppe region in the southern part of the Russian Empire (today’s southern Ukraine and the south of the Russian Federation) to the west of the Ural River and Ural mountains covering the period from the early nineteenth to the early twentieth centuries. The main farming techniques considered in the article are cultivating the soil and keeping fallow fields clear of vegetation (chernyi par) in order to conserve scarce moisture. The article compares the techniques devised on the steppe in the early and mid-nineteenth century with those used later on the Great Plains of the United States, where they were promoted as ‘dry farming’. The article recognizes that farmers in both the Russian Empire and the United States may have devised similar techniques independently, as they faced similar challenges, in particular scarce supplies of moisture, but suggests that the American methods may have had their origins in the experience of farmers on the steppe. In this regard it is important that among the pioneers of such techniques on the steppe, were Mennonite farmers, who migrated from the steppes to the United States in the 1870s and took their methods with them.

Bibliographical note

© Санкт-Петербургский государственный университет, 2018.This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details

    Research areas

  • agriculture, history, dry farming, Russian Empire, steppe, agronomy, chernozem, grain

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