Scientists suspect that the Chinese used irrigation to grow wheat 4,000 years ago

(ORDO NEWS) — The ancient inhabitants of China began to use irrigation in the cultivation of wheat about 4 thousand years ago.

Wheat was domesticated in the Middle East in the Fertile Crescent. It was often planted in autumn to avoid the effects of summer drought and harvested in late spring.

About 4 thousand years ago, wheat was brought to East Asia, a region with a completely different climate.

It rains in summer, when the monsoon brings moisture from the ocean, while the rest of the time the land remains relatively dry.

Ancient Chinese farmers had to somehow cope with the dry period in order for the cultivation of wheat to be meaningful.

To find out how the Chinese cultivated wheat 4,000 years ago, scientists conducted an isotopic analysis of 35,000 charred remains of seeds of cereal plants, including wheat, barley and millet, from more than 50 archaeological sites excavated on the Loess Plateau in China (in the Yellow River basin ).

The isotope method allows you to establish not only the date, but also the conditions for the growth of the plant.

It turned out that despite the arid local environment, most wheat samples of all time periods had an isotope signature characteristic of abundantly watered plants.

However, this does not necessarily mean that the Chinese had large-scale irrigation facilities at that time. Wheat could be planted in wet lowlands or near water bodies, as well as digging small irrigation ditches.

The ancient barley of this period has a completely different isotopic signature. It indicates a lack of moisture during growth, which indicates planting on hills and other dry places.

Apparently, the Chinese knew which of the two crops was more drought tolerant and distributed the land accordingly.


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