buckle up kiddos this is wild
Their contemporaries in Europe were making maybe 20 bushels/A of wheat if they were lucky.
Once the Haudenosaunee were evicted from upstate New York and European settlers took over, maize yields in the area collapsed to 25-30 buA within decades.
Settler farming was actually incredibly unproductive compared to what Natives had been doing before.
These maize fields, once established, were permanent. They grew maize+squash+beans every single year without fallowing & kept up high yields.
That's because most of the N they fix goes into the beans. Not the soil. That's why beans are high in protein.
Maize's big seeds mean it has the energy to put out roots and quickly grow above competing weeds. Small grains don't.
Small grains need a perfectly textured loose-but-not-too-loose bed. That's why plowing is done.
So, in Anglo farming you plant in rows so you can cultivate: running lightweight tools like harrows, etc through the field after planting a couple times to knock over weeds.
It fluffs extra air into the soil so the organic matter breaks down.
In the short term this is awesome! It releases nutrients!
In the long run … then you have less organic matter.
In the soils of NW Europe & Iroquoia, that's about 2% organic matter left.
Even without tillage, OM breaks down on its own & releases nutrients.
But once Anglo farmers that used tillage took over, maize yields collapsed.
But, even long after they'd arrived from Europe, Haudenosaunee farmers didn't have much trouble w them. Why?
Weed seeds' main route into new fields wasn't wind or being tracked in on feet & wagon wheels.
It's livestock manure added to make up for the nutrient loss from tillage. Also, draft animals pooping while doing said tillage.
Cultivation cuts down baby weeds that already sprouted. But it also digs up old buried weed seeds. Then THEY sprout as soon as you leave the field. Kind of a vicious cycle.
Meanwhile the Netherlands is famous for using lots of chemicals on their farms, but they use nothing close to how much herbicide the US does.
But the CAUSE was invading land & abolishing perfectly good farming methods.
This isn't a post-WW2 problem, this is a "since the 1600s" problem.
but it also uses a looooooot of herbicides which, even in a best case scenario, ultimately ends in resistant weeds & collapse of no-till methods :C
mileage may vary on Newman Turner's methods to say the least
Indigenous farming tech was forcibly abolished hundreds of years ago, & ag science has only recently started looking at it as a valid source of information.
Looking at the full spectrum of farming tech helps you come up with better questions!
Like instead of asking "how can we plow better," we can ask "WHY THOUGH"
This made it so you only had to remove weeds from the hills- 5-10% of the field- instead of from rows that make up 50-90% of the field.
the main paper this thread drew from is "The Paradox of Plows and Productivity" by Jane Mt Pleasant, 2011 in the Agricultural History Society journal