Agronomiya stepi

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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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)378-396
Number of pages19
JournalVestnik Sankt-Peterburgskogo Universiteta, Istoriya
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 19 2018


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

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