Agriculture in South and Central America

  • Karl H. Schwerin
Reference work entry

Conquest of South and Central America by the Spanish and Portuguese in the sixteenth century was rapidly followed by the introduction of Old World crops. These included both those familiar to European farmers, such as wheat, barley, oats, and many temperate vegetables and fruits catering to European food tastes, as well as tropical crops from Africa and Asia, such as bananas and plantains, sugar cane, and rice. At the same time many American crops were carried to the Old World – the most important being maize, potatoes, manioc, beans, and squash.

From the time of conquest to the present, agriculture in this region has been dichotomized between small‐scale subsistence farming and large‐scale monocrop operations producing for profit. Their development is summarized here.

Some native agricultural methods continued, such as swidden agriculture in temperate and tropical forested regions, field cultivation with the foot plow in the Andes, and intensive chinampaagriculture in central...

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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg New York 2008

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  • Karl H. Schwerin

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