Human Ecology

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 15–28 | Cite as

Seventeenth century organic agriculture in China: II. Energy flows through an agroecosystem in Jiaxing region

  • Wen Dazhong
  • David Pimentel


The energy flows in a seventeenth century agroecosystem in Jiaxing region of eastern China were analyzed on the basis of historical data. The agroecosystem included cropping, mulberry-silkworm, livestock, and fishing systems. In terms of energy, the agroecosystem was sustainable. Human labor provided all the power with inputs of about 3700 hr per hectare of farmland. Most or 70% of the labor was expended in the cropping system. Human and animal manure provided most of the nutrients for crop and mulberry production. About two-thirds of the total manure was used in crop production and one-third in the mulberry plantations. The only fossil energy input was a few hand tools. Approximately 55% of the grain was consumed directly by local residents, about one-third of the grain was used to make an alcohol drink and produce distillers'grains, which was fed to pigs, and only 2% of the grains were exported outside the agroecosystem. About two-thirds of the harvested crop residues were used as household fuel, while the remainder was returned to the field as an organic fertilizer. Pork accounted for 85% and silk cocoons 14% of the total animal products produced. Even though the agroecosystem was generally sustainable in terms of energy, the major environmental problem was that two-thirds of the harvested crop residues were used for household fuel. This reduced nutrient cycling in the system. Insufficient land was available to produce fuelwood;thus, crop residues were the primary source of fuel for the people.

Key words

organic agriculture agriculture China energy flow agroecology 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Beijingshi Nonglinju (1980).Handbook of General Agricultural Data (Nongye Changyong Shuzi Shonche). Beijing Press, Beijing.Google Scholar
  2. Chen Hengli (1958).The Study of “Supplementary Agricultural Book” (Bunongshu Yanjiu). Zhonghua Shujue, Beijing.Google Scholar
  3. Chen Hengli, and Wang Da (1983).Collation and Explanation of Supplementary Agricultural Book (Bu Nongshu Jiaoshi). Agricultural Press, Beijing.Google Scholar
  4. Institute of Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences (IGCAS) (1980).The General Comment of Chinese Agricultural Geography (Zhonggue Nongye Dili Zhonglun). Science Press, Beijing.Google Scholar
  5. Mitchell, R. (1979).The Analysis of Indian Agroecosystems. Interprint, New Delhi.Google Scholar
  6. Nakano, K., and Mensi, M. (1968). An experimental approach to some quantitative aspects of grazing by silkworms.Japanese Ecology 18: 217–229.Google Scholar
  7. Norman, M. J. T. (1978). Energy inputs and outputs of subsistence cropping systems in the tropics.Agro-Ecosystems 4: 355–366.Google Scholar
  8. Odum, H. T. (1972). An energy circuit language for ecological social systems. In Pattern, B. C. (Ed.),Systems Analysis and Simulation in Ecology (Vol. II). Academic Press, New York, pp. 140–211.Google Scholar
  9. Pimentel, D. (1976). The energy crisis: Its impact on agriculture. InEnciclopedia Delia Scienza e Delia Technica. Annuario delca EST, Mondadori, Milan, pp. 251–266.Google Scholar
  10. Pimentel, D. (1984). Energy flow in agroecosystems. In Lowrance, R., Stinner, B. R., and House, G. J. (eds.),Agricultural Ecosystems. John Wiley and Sons, New York, pp. 121–132.Google Scholar
  11. Wen Dazhong, and Pimentel, D. (1984).Seventeenth Century Organic Agriculture Systems in China. I;Cropping Systems in Jiaxing Region. Unpublished.Google Scholar
  12. Wen Dazhong, and Pimentel, D. (1984b). Energy flow through an organic agroecosystem in China.Agriculturre, Ecosystems, and Environment 11: 145–160.Google Scholar
  13. Xu Heyong, Zheng Yunshan, and Zhao Shanpai (1982).Modern history of Zhejiang (Zhejiang Jindaishi). People's Press of Zhejiang, Hangzho.Google Scholar
  14. Xu Yaoguang (ed.) (1879).The Annals in Jiaxing Prefecture (Jiaxing Fuzhi).China's Annals Series No. 53. Chengwen Co., Chewenpb, Taipei.Google Scholar
  15. Yan Chen (1887).The Annals of Tongxiang County of Zhejiang Province (Zhejiangsheng Tongxiang Xianzhi).China's Annals Series No. 17 Chengwen Co., Chewenpb, Taipei.Google Scholar
  16. Zhang Luxiang (1956).Shen's Agricultural Book. (Shenshi Nongshu). Zhonghua Shujue, Beijing (originally published in 1658).Google Scholar
  17. Zhong Gongfu (1982). Some aspects about the mulberry-dyke-fish pond ecosystem on the Zhujiang (Pearl River) Delta (Zhujiang Sanjiazhou Shangjiyutang Shengtaishitong Ruoganwenti Yanjiu).Ecology (Shengtaixue Zazhi) 1: 10–13.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wen Dazhong
  • David Pimentel

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations