The period from the 9th century to the 13th century witnessed a fundamental transformation in agriculture that can be characterized as the Islamic green revolution in pre-modern times. The economy established in the Arab and Islamic world enabled the diffusion of many crops and farming techniques as well as the adaptation of crops and techniques from and to regions beyond the Islamic world. These introductions, along with an increased mechanization of agriculture, led to major changes in economy, population distribution, vegetation cover, agricultural production and income, population levels, urban growth, the distribution of the labour force, linked industries, cooking, diet and clothing in the Islamic world. This article presents a survey on those issues and others, such as agricultural machinery water Management and farming manuals.
Table of contents
2. The Agricultural Revolution
3. Agricultural Machines and Construction
4. Examples of Water Management
5. Globalisation of Crops
6. Farming Manuals
6.1. Eastern Literature
6.2. The Specialised Corpus of the Islamic West
7. The Decline and Loss of Ecological Balance
8. Bibliography and Further Reading
Note of the editor
This article was published on www.MuslimHeritage.com in August 2002. It is republished with revisions and new illustrations. Copyright: © FSTC Limited, 2002-2010.
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History usually conveys the notion that the agricultural revolution took place in recent times in the form of rotation of crops, advanced irrigation techniques, plant improvements, etc., and that some of those changes took place only in the last couple of centuries in Europe, whilst others are occurring today. It is explained that such revolutionary changes fed the increasing world population, released vast numbers of workers from the land and allowed agriculture to produce a capital surplus, which was invested in industry, thus leading to the industrial revolution of the 18th-19th century.
Figure 1: Satellite view of the Nile Delta in which colour has been enhanced to show the sediment carried out of the Nile River and into the Mediterranean Sea as well as to show the differences of the land features. The Nile Delta is one of the world's largest river deltas. The delta is a very rich agricultural region for Egypt. It has been farmed for at least 5,000 years. (Source).
This is the accepted wisdom, until one comes across works on Muslim agriculture and discovers that several of those changes took place over ten centuries ago in the Muslim world, some of them being the foundations of important modern innovations. Watson, Glick and Bolens , in particular, show that major breakthroughs were achieved by Muslim farmers on the land, and by Muslim scholars with their treatises on the subject. Thus, as with other subjects, prejudice distorts history, and the achievements in the world of Islam ten centuries ago are covered up. This point is raised by Cherbonneau as long as the 1940s when he wrote: "it is admitted with difficulty that a nation in majority of nomads could have had known any form of agricultural techniques other than sowing wheat and barley. The misconceptions come from the rarity of works on the subject… If we took the bother to open up and consult the old manuscripts, so many views will be changed, so many prejudices will be destroyed ."
As early as the 9th century, an innovative agricultural system became central to economic life and the organization of production in the Muslim land. The great Islamic cities of the Near East, North Africa and Spain, Artz explains, were supported by an elaborate agricultural system that included extensive irrigation and an expert knowledge benefiting from some of the most advanced agricultural methods known so far. The Muslims reared the finest horses and sheep and cultivated the best orchards and vegetable gardens. They knew how to fight insect pests, how to use fertilizers, and they were experts at grafting trees and crossing plants to produce new varieties . Glick defines the Muslim agricultural revolution in the introduction of new crops, which, combined with extension and intensification of irrigation, created a complex and varied agricultural system, whereby a greater variety of soil types were put to efficient use. In this system, fields that had been yielding one crop annually at most were capable of yielding three or more crops, in rotation. As a result of such intensive agriculture, agricultural production responded to the demands of an increasingly sophisticated and cosmopolitan urban population by providing the towns with a variety of products unknown elsewhere, for example, in Northern Europe . Scott, on his part, considered that the agricultural system of the Spanish Muslims, in particular, was "the most complex, the most scientific, the most perfect, ever devised by the ingenuity of man ."
Figure 2: Scene of agriculture work in an Arabic manuscript from Islamic Spain. (Source).
Such advancement of Muslim farming, according to Bolens, was owed to the adaptation of agrarian techniques to local needs, and to "a spectacular cultural union of scientific knowledge from the past and the present, from the Near East, the Maghreb, and Andalusia. A culmination subtler than a simple accumulation of techniques, it has been an enduring ecological success, proven by the course of human history ." A variety of fertilisers were used according to a well-advanced methodology; whilst a maximum amount of moisture in the soil was preserved . Soil rehabilitation was constantly cared for, and preserving the deep beds of cropped land from erosion was, as Bolens explains, "the golden rule of ecology", and was "subject to laws of scrupulous careful ecology ".
The success of Islamic farming also lay in hard work. No natural obstacle was sufficiently formidable to check the enterprise and industry of the Muslim farmer. He tunnelled through the mountains, his aqueducts went through deep ravines, and he levelled with infinite patience and labour he levelled the rocky slopes of the sierra in Spain . Watson sums up by arguing that the rise of productivity of agricultural land and sometimes of agricultural labour was due to the introduction of higher yielding new crops and better varieties of old crops, through more specialised land use which often centred on the new crops, through more intensive rotations which the new crops allowed, through the concomitant extension and improvement of irrigation, through the spread of cultivation into new or abandoned areas, and through the development of more labour intensive techniques of farming. These changes, themselves, were positively affected by changes in other sectors of the economy: growth of trade, enlargement of the money economy, increasing specialisation of factors of production in all sectors, and with the growth of population and its increasing urbanisation .
From Andalusia to the Far East, from the Sudan to Afghanistan, irrigation remained central, and the basis of all agriculture and the source of all life . The ancient systems of irrigation the Muslims inherited were in an advanced state of decay.. The Muslims repaired them and constructed new ones; besides devising new techniques to catch, channel, store and lift the water, and making ingeniously combine available devices . All of the books of Filaha (agriculture), whether Maghribi, Andalusian, Egyptian, Iraqi, Persian or Yemenite, Bolens points out, insist meticulously on the deployment of equipment and on the control of water .
Water that was captured through a variety of ways was then successively channelled, stored and lifted using the different techniques and varied devices for each operation. Irrigation became cheap, affecting lands previously impossible or uneconomic to irrigate . Irrigated fields yielded as many as four harvests annually , which, as in Spain, laid the foundations for the country's prosperity . Damming of rivers to provide households and mills with power, and for irrigation, was also widespread . The introduction of the noria (a water lifting device) in any district has always had revolutionary consequences upon agricultural productivity. Being relatively inexpensive to build and simple to maintain, the noria enabled the development of entire huertas that were intensively irrigated .
Figure 4a-b: View of the frontispiece and of the title of Kitab al-filaha al-andalusiya (The Book of Andalusian Agriculture) by Yahya ibn al-Awwam al-Ishbili. Translated into Spanish and annotated by Joseph Antonio Banqueri (Madrid, 1802). The book consists of 35 chapters dealing with agronomy, cattle and poultry raising and beekeeping. It deals with 585 plants; explains the cultivation of more than 50 fruit trees; and includes many valuable observations on soils, manures, plant grafting, and plant diseases. (Source).
In Cordoba, al-Shaqundi (13th century) speaks of 5000 norias (possibly including both lifting and milling devices) on the Guadalquivir . Some are still in use, as at La Nora, six km from the Murcia city centre, where although the original wheel has been replaced by a steel one, the ancient system is otherwise virtually unchanged . In general, these Islamic irrigation techniques that were transferred to Spain were adapted to specific natural conditions . The Muslims, Forbes holds, should be credited with important developments of irrigation in the Western Mediterranean. They did not just extend the irrigated area in Spain and Sicily, but also knew how to drain rivers and how to irrigate their fields by systems of branch channels with an efficient distribution of the available water . They also captured rainwater in trenches on the sides of hills or as it ran down mountain gorges or into valleys; surface water was taken from springs, brooks, rivers and oases, whilst underground water was tapped by creating new springs, or digging wells .
Water, such a precious commodity, was managed according to stringent rules, any waste of the resource banned, and the most severe economy enforced. Several techniques for preserving water were used. The qanat and the foggaras are discussed below.
The qanāt is called different names in various parts of the Middle East and North Africa . It is a water management system used to provide a reliable supply of water to human settlements and for irrigation in hot, arid and semi-arid climates. Qanats are constructed as a series of well-like vertical shafts, connected by gently sloping tunnels. Qanats tap into subterranean water in a manner that efficiently delivers large quantities of water to the surface without need for pumping. The water drains relying on gravity, with the destination lower than the source, which is typically an upland aquifer. Qanats allow water to be transported over long distances in hot dry climates without losing a large proportion of the water to seepage and evaporation. Qanats are sometimes split into an underground distribution network of smaller canals located below ground to avoid contamination. In some cases water from a Qanat is stored in a reservoir, typically storing night flow for daytime use.
From Spain, where Muslims used this technology in water management, the qanat system was transferred to the New World and qanats have been found in Mexico, Peru, and Chile. In Palermo, Italy, a qanat system from the Arab days was used to bring fresh water to the city and to irrigate its gardens. There are current plans to revive and reconstruct the Arabic qanat and utilize it to solve the acute needs of the modern city of Palermo for potable water. The project in hand is of great historical, archaeological, geological and hydro-geological importance. It is already of great interest for tourists .
Figure 5: Front cover of the recent paperback printing of the French translation of Kitab al-filaha by Ibn al-Awwam: Le livre de l'agriculture, translated by J.-J. Clément-Mullet (Actes Sud, 2000, 1052 pp.)
In the Algerian Sahara, various water management techniques were used to make the most effective use of the resource. The foggaras, a network of underground galleries, conducted water from one place to another over very long distances so as to avoid evaporation. Although the system is still in use today, the tendency at present is for over-use and waste of water.
The foggaras in the Algeria Sahara are the source of water for irrigation at large oases like that at Gourara. The foggaras are also found at Touat (an area of Adrar 200 km from Gourara). The length of the foggaras in this region is estimated to be thousands of kilometers.
Although sources suggest that the foggaras may have been in use as early as ancient times, they were clearly in use by the 11th century after the oases had come under the authority of Islamic rulers in the 10th century and the residents had embraced Islam .
Still in Algeria, in the Beni Abbes region, in the Sahara, south of Oran, farmers used a clepsydra to determine the duration of water use for every user in the area . This clepsydra regulates with precision, night and day, the amount going to each farmer, timed by the minute, throughout the year, and taking into account seasonal variations. Each farmer is informed of the timing of his turn, and required to take the necessary action to ensure effective supply to his plot . In Spain, the same strict management was in operation. The water conducted from one canal to the other was used more than once, the quantity supplied accurately graduated; distributing outlets were adapted to each soil variety, two hundred and twenty four of these, each with a specific name . All disputes and violations of laws on water were dealt with by a court-whose judges were chosen by the farmers themselves. This court named The Tribunal of the Waters sat on Thursdays at the door of the principal mosque. Ten centuries later, the same tribunal still sits in Valencia, but at the door of the cathedral .
Elaborating on the Islamic agricultural revolution, the picture that emerges is that of a large unified region which for a long period of time amounting to more than four centuries was unusually receptive to all that was new. It was also unusually able to diffuse novelties: both to effect the initial transfer which introduced an element into a region and to carry out the secondary diffusion which changed rarities into commonplaces. Attitudes, social structure, institutions, infrastructure, scientific progress, technological inventions and economic development all played a part in the making of this medium of diffusion. Agriculture as well as other spheres of the economy and many areas of social life were touched by this capacity to absorb and to transmit .'
Indeed, the advances introduced in agriculture in the Islamic world was represented by a wide use of new methods, machinery and also certain crops which could not have been grown with the typically classical agricultural methods. The Romans had imported rice but had never grown it on a large scale. The Muslims started to grow it on irrigated fields in Sicily and Spain, whence it came to the Pisan plain (1468) and Lombardy (1475) .
In this way, historians agree that the Andalus received all manner of agricultural and fruit-growing processes, together with a vast number of new plants, fruit and vegetables that we all now take for granted . These new crops included sugar cane, rice, citrus fruit, apricots, cotton, artichokes, aubergines and saffron. Others, previously known, were developed further . Muslims also brought to that country rice, oranges, sugar cane and cotton , and sub-tropical crops such as bananas and sugar cane were grown on the coastal parts of the country , many to be taken later to the New World. In addition, all these products and the methods of their cultivation were in turn transmitted to most of Europe.
Figure 7: Kanz al-Fawa'id fi Tanwi' al-Mawa'id: Medieval Arab-Islamic Culinary Art. (edited by Manuela Marin and David Waines in Beirut, 1993). An anonymous medieval Arabic cookbook, possibly of Egyptian provenance, compiled sometime during the Mamluk period. The book contains more than 800 recipes for the preparation of dishes, sweets, drinks and medicines from different regions in the Middle East with frequent health references attached to them. (Source).
Also owing to the Muslim influence, a silk industry flourished, flax was cultivated and linen exported, and esparto grass, which grew wild in the more arid parts, was collected and turned into various items . In Sicily, crops and techniques introduced by the Muslims still form the foundations of the economy . Much of the transfer of such crops often is due to the enthusiasm of individual people. So, Abd al-Rahman I, out of nostalgia for the Syrian landscape was personally responsible for the introduction of several species, including the date palm . A variety of pomegranate was introduced from Damascus by the chief judge of Cordoba, Mu'awiya b. Salih. It is also reported that the Umayyad soldiers originally from the Middle East introduced fig cutting which were planted first in the Malaga region. This species, called safri, subsequently became widely diffused .
The Muslims who had introduced sugar cane into Ethiopia, and who made the East African island of Zanzibar famous for its high quality sugar . Baron Carra de Vaux observes that in general "it would make a whole book and not the least interesting, on the history of flowers, plants and animals that had come from the Orient, and which are used in agriculture, pharmacy, gardens, luxury trade, and arts ." He lists tulips, hyacinths, narcissi, lilacs, jasmine, roses, peaches, prunes, Barbary sheep, goats, Angora cats, Persian cocks, silk, cotton, and plants and products used for dyeing .
The tradition of Islamic agriculture was marked by a rich corpus of specialised written treatises. Muslim farming manuals conveyed much of the expertise that was available. Ways and methods for increasing production and productivity, and maintaining soil fertility were explained alongside detailed descriptions of soils, and their requirements. Soils were classified, and so was water according to its quality. It was explained how to enrich the soil by various methods, and methods for ploughing (normal and deep), hoeing, digging and harrowing .
6.1. Eastern literature
The oldest Arabic work on agriculture of which we know is al-Filāha al-nabatiyya (Nabataean agriculture) of Ibn Wahshiyya, written (or translated from the Nabataean) in 291/904. A little later there appeared Al-Filāha al-rūmiyya (Greek or Byzantine agriculture, attributed to the names of Qustūs al-Rūmī as author and of Sarjīs b. Hilyā al-Rūmī as translator from Greek into Arabic. According to a later bio-bibliographical source , the author's full name was Qustūs b. Askūrāskīna, who is probably Cassianus Bassus to whom agronomic works collected from Greek and Latin authors are attributed. In these early works of Al-Filāha al-nabatiyya and Al-Filāha al-rūmiyya, we find a reasonable knowledge of agricultural practice, intermingled with cultural symbols rooted in the ancient culture marked with some superstitious mental attitude.
Figure 9: Arabic botanical manuscript from the 15th century arranged in alphabetical order with illustrations of plants in vivid colours at Princeton University Library, MS 583H. © Princeton University Library, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. See the electronic edition of the manuscript.
In Egypt, the best presentation of agricultural material at the time of the Ayyūbids is to be found in a work of Ibn Mammātī (d. 606/1209), entitled Qawānīn al-dawāwīn. In the following century Jamāl Dīn al-Watwat (d. 718/1318) wrote in Cairo the book entitled Mabāhij al-fikar wa-manāhij al-'ibar, the fourth volume of which is devoted to plants and agriculture. In the 10th/16th century, a Damascene author named Riyadh al-Dīn al-Ghazzī al-'Amirī (fl. 935/1529) wrote a large book on agriculture which has not survived; but later 'Abd al-Ghanī al-Nābulusī (d. 1143/1731) gave a summary of it in his work entitled 'Alam al-milāha fī 'ilm al-filāha.
In general, the writers of ancient Arabic works on agriculture dealt with the following subjects: types of agricultural land and choice of land; manure and other fertilizers; tools and work of cultivation; wells, springs, and irrigation channels; plants and nurseries; planting, pruning and grafting of fruit trees; cultivation of cereals, legumes, vegetables, flowers, bulbs and tubers, and plants for perfume; noxious plants and animals; preserving of fruit; and sometimes zootechny.
The chief principles of dry-farming were not unknown to them, and similarly the principles of variation and rotation of crops. Certain Arabic agronomists in Andalusia had at their disposal botanical gardens and trial grounds where they experimented with native and exotic plants, practised methods of grafting and tried to create new varieties of fruit and flowers. We should also note that several ancient Arabic dictionaries, encyclopaedic works and Arabic treatises on agriculture and botany contain the names of numerous varieties of fruit, cereals, flowers and other cultivated plants. Thus al-Badrī (9th/15th century) in his Nuzhat al-anām fī mahāsin al-Shām gives the names used in Syria for 21 varieties of apricots, 50 varieties of grapes, and 6 varieties of roses .
Figure 10: Satellite view of Qanats in Eastern Iran. (Source).
6.2. The Specialised Corpus of the Islamic West
In addition to this Eastern literature on agriculture, a rich agricultural corpus written in the Arabic language was created and developed in the Andalus, particularly during the 5th/11th and 6th/12th centuries, under the rule of the Teifas princes (mulūk al-tawā'if) and the Almoravid governors who followed them.
The principal centres of this literature were Cordova, Toledo, Seville, Granada and Almeria. In Cordova the great doctor Abu 'l-Qāsim al-Zahrāwī (d. 404/1010) is reputed to be the author of a Compendium on agronomy (Mukhtasar kitāb al-filāha). In Toledo, the celebrated doctor Ibn Wāfid (d. 467/1075) was appointed by the ruler to create his royal botanical garden called no less than Jannat al-sultān (the paradise of the Sultan ). In particular, Ibn Wafid wrote a treatise on agronomy which was translated into Castilian some time later. Muhammad b. Ibrāhīm Ibn Bassāl, another scholar from Toledo, devoted himself exclusively to agronomy. He performed the regular pilgrimage, travelling via Sicily and Egypt, and brought back many botanical and agronomic notes from the East. He wrote a lengthy treatise on agronomy entitled Dīwān al-filāha. The treatise was subsequently abridged into one volume with sixteen chapters under the title Kitāb al-Qasd wa 'l-bayān (Book of concision and clarity) which was translated into Castilian in the Middle Ages . The treatise by Ibn Bassāl is unusual in that it contains no reference to earlier agronomists, but appears to be based exclusively on the personal experiences of the author, who is revealed as the most original and objective of all the Andalusian experts in agriculture, agronomy and botany.
Ibn Bassal's treatise distinguished between ten classes of soil, each given a different life sustaining capability, according to the season of the year. He was insistent that fallow land be ploughed four times between January and May and, in certain cases (for example, cotton, when planted in the thick soils of the Mediterranean coast), he recommended as many as ten ploughings .
After the capture of Toledo by Alfonso VI of Castile in 1085, Ibn Bassāl withdrew to Seville to the court of Al-Mu'tamid for whom he created a new royal garden. In addition to Ibn Bassal, there were several agronomists in Seville at that time, such as 'Alī Ibn al-Lūnquh of Toledo, and Ahmad b. Hajjāj al-Ishbīlī, the author of several works on agronomy, among them Al-Muqni' fi 'l-filaha, written in 1073. Ibn Hajjaj was more acquainted with the works of ancient agronomists, especially Yūniyūs; he was also linked with the agronomist Abu 'l-Khayr al-Ishbīlī whose work is often quoted by Ibn al-'Awwām.
Figure 11: Water "metering" through a distribution weir on a foggara in Algeria. (Source).
In Granada, the principal agricultural writer was Muhammad b. Mālik al-Tighnarī, originally from Tignar, a village a few kilometres north of Granada. He worked in Granada towards 1073-11018. He wrote a treatise on agronomy in 12 chapters entitled Zuhrat al-bustān wa-nuzhat al-adhhān for the Almoravid prince Tamīm, son of Yūsuf b. Tāshafīn, at the time when that prince was governor of the province of Granada. Several manuscripts of the Zuhrat al-bustān are attributed to a certain Hamdūn al-Ishbīlī, who is otherwise unknown.
Abū l-Khayr al-Ishbīlī (fl. 5th/11th or 6th/12th centuries) was an agronomist and botanist who lived in Seville. His most important works are a book of agriculture, Kitāb al-Filāha, and 'Umdat al-tabīb, a manual for medical pharmacy based on plants and herbs. All that we know about him is that in 494/1100 he was studying with the doctor from Seville, Abu 'l-Hasan Shihāb al-Mu'aytī. It is also reported that he studied under Ibn Bassāl and Ibn al-Lūnquh in Seville, as this reference is related to them being the masters of the mysterious "anonymous botanist of Seville", the author of the 'Umdat al-tabīb fī ma'rifat al-nabāt li-kull labīb, a botanical dictionary of considerable merit, which is ascribed in certain manuscripts to Abu al-Khayr.
Kitāb al-Filāha (Treatise on agriculture) of Abu al-Khayr is extant in manuscripts that fail to provide a complete text of the work. Famous for its chapters on the planting and grafting of trees and bushes, it combines agronomic theory and practice, offering unique comments on the influence of the four elements (earth, air, water, and manure) on the life cycle of plants.
The other book attributed to this author is a sort of botanical dictionary entitled 'Umdat al-tabīb fī ma'rifat al-nabāt (Basic plant manual for physicians). It includes, for each plant: its genus, identifying different species and varieties; a morphological description; names by which it is known in other languages; geographical locations and soil conditions required for optimal growth; and its uses and applications. This work's taxonomic classification, unprecedented for its time, anticipates various European attempts to systematise plants scientifically during the 16th century. The 'Umdat al-tabīb is also a rich source of information for other disciplines, including agronomy, pharmacology, and the study of popular traditions, the geography of al-Andalus, and the beginnings of the Romance language in Spain .
Abu al-Khayr al-Ishbili's Kitab al-filaha goes in the same direction as Ibn al-'Awwam in giving precise instructions to farmers about nearly every matter of concern. Extracts from it show in minute detail how to grow olive trees, the treatment of diseases, grafting, harvesting olives, properties of olives, refining olive oil and conditioning of olives. It follows the same pattern with respect to other crops, including cotton, the soil type required, the tasks preceding the planting, soil preparation, use of manure, and what sort; ploughing techniques, their frequency, the time for sowing and how it is done, watering after sowing, and during growth, maintenance of plants, and harvesting .
Just before the capture of Seville by the Castilians in 646/1248, an outstanding agronomist, Abū Zakariyyā Yahyā Ibn al-'Awwām, author of the lengthy Kitab al-Filāha flourished in the city of La Jiralda. We know nothing of his life, but his treatise has received a great interest by scholars . His work is also the only treatise of agronomy mentioned by Ibn Khaldūn in his Muqaddima .
Kitab al-Filaha al-andalusiya (The Book of Andalusian Agriculture) by Ibn al-'Awwam (probably died in 1185) consists of 35 chapters dealing with agronomy, cattle and poultry raising and beekeeping. It deals with 585 plants; explains the cultivation of more than 50 fruit trees; and includes many valuable observations on soil properties, manures, plant grafting, and plant diseases and their treatments. Ibn al-Awwam studies gardening, irrigation, affinities between trees, grafting, animal husbandry and bee keeping.
Much of the material was derived from Greek and Arabic literature, especially from the treatise on Nabatean agriculture of Ibn Wahshiya, but Ibn al-'Awwam made many additions to the accumulated knowledge and experience derived from the Andalusian experience.
Despite its singular value, the treatise of Ibn al-'Awwam is far from being the most important of the Andalusian writings of agriculture. His work is essentially an extensive and useful compilation of quotations from ancient writers and from his Hispanic predecessors, Ibn Bassāl, Ibn Hajjaj, Abu 'l-Khayr and the mysterious "Al-Hajj al-Gharnātī". It is only occasionally at the end of a chapter that he records his own personal observations (introduced by the word Lī "this is my own"), made in the neighbourhood of Seville.
Finally, towards the middle of the 8th/14th century, a scholar of Almeria, Abū Uthmān Sa'd b. Abū Ja'far Ahmad Ibn Luyūn al-Tujjbī (d. 750/1349) wrote his Kitāb Ibdā' al-malāha wa-inhā' al-rajāha fī usūl sinā'at al-filāha. The work of an amateur, it is an abridgement in verse, based essentially on Ibn Bassāl and al-Tighnarī; but it also contains certain valuable information which the author recorded in the words of local practitioners.
These treatises of agriculture, agronomy and botany composed under the generic title of filaha contain far more than their titles would indicate; in fact, they are true encyclopaedias of rural economy. Naturally, the essential feature is agronomy (filāhat al-ardh or sometimes al-aradhīn): the study of types of soil, water, manure; field cultivation of cereals and legumes; but arboriculture is also dealt with at length (particularly vines, olives and figs), with additional matter on pruning, layering and grafting; and also horticulture and floriculture. Animals as part of agriculture also take a leading place: the rearing of livestock, beasts of burden, fowls and bees; veterinary practice (baytara). All these fundamental questions are completed by chapters on domestic economy: farm management, the choice of agricultural workers, storage of produce after harvest, etc. Some writers also provide information on measurement of land and the seasonal agricultural calendar.
We may imagine that specialists of many sorts were led to contribute to such encyclopaedic works. To start with, there were practitioners and professional workers: farmers (fallāhūn), fruit-growers (shajjārūn), horticulturists (jannānūn); but there were also "scientific workers"—herbalists ('ashshābūn), botanists (nabātiyyūn), doctors interested in medicinal plants and dietetics; and there were also pure theoreticians, more sensitive to a philosophical and speculative kind of discourse.
On the other hand, the Andalusian treatises on filāha were often the work of multi-talented writers. Beside Ibn Bassāl was essentially an agronomist, Ibn Wāfid was primarily a physician; Ibn Hajjaj was known as religious leader (imām and khatīb). Al-Tighnarī and Ibn Luyūn are well-known poets. Finally, the enigmatical Seville botanist Ibn 'Abdūn could well be the same as his contemporary Ibn 'Abdūn of Seville, the author of a treatise on hisba (market inspection).
The Hispano-Arab agronomists were familiar with and made wide use of ancient writers. A list of them (in which the names are often inaccurate) will be found at the beginning of the translation edition of Ibn al-'Awwām by Banqueri. Among the Arab sources, they made use of Kitāb al-Nabāt of the polymath al-Dīnawarī and, in particular, the Filāha al-nabatiyya of Ibn Wahshīyya. However, in this branch of instruction they did not confine themselves to repeating their predecessors writings. They made their own personal observations and experiments, in order to adapt their works to the realities of the Iberian soil and climate. They also introduced original chapters on the cultivation of new plants—rice, sugar-cane, date palms, citrus fruits, cotton, flax, madder, apricots, peaches, pears, watermelons, eggplant, pistachios, and saffron.
Some of this legacy of works on agronomy were translated into Castilian and influenced later Spanish works. For instance, Ibn Wāfid's work was widely used by the Spanish agronomist Alonso de Herrera in his famous Agricultura General (1513).
Finally we should note that it was in Muslim Spain, during the 5th/11th century, in Toledo and later in Seville, that the first "royal botanical gardens" of Europe made their appearance, both pleasure gardens and also trial grounds for the acclimatization of plants brought back from the Near and Middle East. In the Christian world we have to wait until the middle of the 16th century to see the establishment of gardens of this sort, in the university towns of Italy .
A wealth of information on agriculture is also found in the "Calendar of Cordova" dated from 961 CE . Its technical accuracy is remarkable, and much of what it contains was to be found in subsequent geography books and farming treatises. Each month of the year had its tasks and time table, March, for instance, was when fig trees are grafted; and early cereals begin to rise. It was the time to plant sugar cane, and when pre-season roses and lilacs begin to come out. Quails appear; silk worms hatch; mullets journey up rivers from the sea. That is also the time to plant cucumbers, and sow cotton, saffron and aubergines. During this month orders are sent to provincial tax officials to purchase horses for the government; locusts begin to appear and their destruction is ordered; time to plant lime and marjoram, too. It is also the mating season of many birds .
To illustrate the wide interest of a number of writers regarding one single crop, one could take the example of rice . Ibn Bassal, for instance, advises on the choice of terrain, plots that face to the rising sun. The thorough preparation of the soil is well recommended as well as the addition of manure, and how it is to be done. Sowing is advised between February and March. Al-Ishbilli gives the specific amount of rice that needs to be sown on any given surface, and how that should be carried out. Ibn al-Awwam speaks at length of the watering process, that land should be flooded up to a given height of water, then the rice is sown. Once the soil had absorbed the water, the seeds are covered with earth, and the land flooded again.
Precise details are also provided on irrigation and ways of drainage once the plants have grown, as well as fighting parasites. Clearing weeds, and the methods used for that also attract much attention from the writers. Ways of harvesting and for safe storage received attention. The use of rice as a food commodity takes many forms. Ibn al-Awwam specifies that the best way of cooking and eating rice is with butter, oil, fat and milk.
The green revolution in Islamic times could not develop without a strict observance of ecological balance and the respect for environment-friendly rules. The decline of Islamic civilisation and the subsequent period of European colonialism resulted in a loss of ecological balance.
Bolens asserts that "with a deep love for nature, and a relaxed way of life, classical Islamic society achieved ecological balance, a successful average economy of operation, based not on theory but on the acquired knowledge of many civilized traditions ." It was colonialism, she recognises, which subsequently and seriously upset the traditional agricultural balance in order to increase profitability of the soils .
The decline of Islamic agriculture began much earlier than the colonial period. It started with the various invasions, from the Crusades to the Mongol attacks, including the raids of Banu Hillal and the Normans in the Maghrib. Such invasions caused the ruin of irrigation works, destroyed permanent crops, closed down trade routes, and caused farmers to take flight .
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Notes and References
 See A. M. Watson: Agricultural Innovation in the Early Islamic World, Cambridge University Press, 1983; A. M. Watson, "The Arab Agricultural Revolution and its Diffusion", in The Journal of Economic History 34 (1974), pp. 8-35; Thomas Glick, Islamic and Christian Spain in the Early Middle Ages, Princeton University Press, 1979; T. Glick, Irrigation and Hydraulic Technology: Medieval Spain and its Legacy, Varorium, Aldershot, 1996; L. Bolens, Les méthodes culturales au Moyen Age d'après les traités d'agronomie andalous: Traditions et techniques, Geneva, 1974; L. Bolens, Agronomes Andalous du Moyen Age, Geneva/Paris, 1981 and L. Bolens, "L'Eau et l'irrigation d'après les traités d'agronomie Andalous au Moyen Age (XI-XIIèmes siècles)", Options Méditerranéenes, vol. 16, December 1972, pp. 65-77.
 A. Cherbonneau: "Kitab al-Filaha of Abu Khayr al-Ichbili", in Bulletin d‘Etudes Arabes (Alger), vol. 6, 1946, pp. 130-44; p. 130. See also Abu al-Khayr al-Ishbili, Kitâb al-Filâh'a ou Le Livre de la culture [by Aboû 'l-Khayr ach-Chadjdjâr al-Ichbîlî], notice et extraits traduits par Auguste Cherbonneau, éclaicissements par Henri Pérès, Alger: Carbonel, 1946.
 Frederick B. Artz, The Mind of the Middle Ages, The University of Chicago Press, 1980, 3rd edition revised, p. 150.
 T. Glick, Islamic and Christian Spain in the Early Middle Ages, op. cit., p. 78.
 S. P. Scott, History of the Moorish Empire in Europe, J.B. Lippincott Company, London, 1904, vol. 3, p. 598.
 L. Bolens, "Agriculture", in Encyclopedia of the History of Science, Technology and Medicine in Non Western Cultures, edited by Helaine Selin, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht/Boston/London, 1997, pp. 20-2; p. 20.
 T. Glick, Islamic and Christian Spain in the Early Middle Ages, op. cit., p. 75.
 L. Bolens, "Agriculture", op. cit., p. 22.
 S.P. Scott, History, op. cit., p.604.
 A. Watson, Agricultural Innovation, op. cit., pp. 2-3.
 L. Bolens, "Irrigation", in Encyclopedia of the History of Science, Technology and Medicine in Non Western Cultures, op. cit., pp. 450-2; p. 451.
 A. M. Watson, Agricultural Innovation, op. cit., p. 104.
 Ibid, pp. 109-10.
 L. Bolens, "Irrigation", op. cit., p. 451.
 A. M. Watson, Agricultural Innovation, op. cit., p. 104.
 T. Glick, Islamic and Christian Spain, op. cit., p. 75.
 D. R. Hill, Islamic Science and Engineering, Edinburgh University Press, 1993, p. 161.
 Ibid, pp. 159-69.
 T. Glick, Islamic and Christian Spain, op. cit., p. 74.
 Al-Saqundi, "Elogio del Islam espanol", p. 105; quoted in T. Glick, Islamic and Christian Spain, op. cit., p.75.
 D. R. Hill, Islamic Science and Engineering, op. cit., p. 97.
 E. Lévi Provençal, Histoire de l‘Espagne Musulmane, Maisonneuve, Paris, 1953, 3 vols.; vol. 3, p. 279.
 R. J. Forbes, Studies in Ancient Technology, Leiden, E. J. Brill, 1965, 2nd revised edition, vol. 2, p. 49.
 A. M. Watson, Agricultural Innovation, op. cit. p. 107.
 It is called kārīz in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia, khettara in Morocco, galleria in Spain, falaj in United Arab Emirates and Oman and foggara/fughara in North Africa. See Sankaran Nair, Etymological Conduit to the Land of Qanat (August 15, 2004; retrieved 22.01.2010).
 Ahmad Y. Hasan, Transfer Of Islamic Technology To The West, Part Ii: Transmission Of Islamic Engineering. See also A. Y. Al-Hasan in Cultural Contacts in Building a Universal Civilization: Islamic Contributions, edited by Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Istanbul, IRCICA, 2005, pp. 183-223.
 See the following a UNESCO article with numerous clear photographs showing the Foggara in Algeria: Inventory of Traditional Knowledge to Combat Desertification (A-17): Underground Water Catchment Systems (foggara, qanat, etc).
 L. Goonalons, "La Clepsydre de Beni Abbes", in Bulletin d'Etudes Arabes, vol. 3, 1943, pp. 35-7.
 Ibid, p. 37.
 S. P. Scott, History, op. cit., pp. 602-3.
 A. M. Watson, Agricultural Innovation, op. cit., p. 2.
 R. J. Forbes, Studies, op. cit., p. 49.
 G. M. Wickens, "What the West Borrowed from the Middle East", in Introduction to Islamic Civilisation, edited by R. M. Savory, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1976, pp. 120-5; p. 125.
 M. Watt, The Influence of Islam on Medieval Europe, Edinburgh University Press, 1972, pp. 22-23.
 A. Pacey, Technology in World Civilization. A Thousand Year History, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1990, p. 15.
 E.Lévi Provençal, Histoire de l'Espagne Musulmane, op. cit., p. 283.
 W. M. Watt, The Influence, op. cit., pp. 22-3.
 Francesco Gabrieli, "Islam in the Mediterranean World", in The Legacy of Islam, edited by J. Schacht with C.E. Bosworth, Oxford Clarendon Press, 1974, 2nd edition, pp. 63-104; p. 75.
 T. Glick, Islamic and Christian Spain, op. cit., p. 76.
 A. Pacey, Technology, op. cit., p. 15.
 Baron Carra de Vaux, Les Penseurs de l'Islam, Paris, Librairie Paul Geuthner, 1921, vol. 2, Chapter X, "Les Sciences Naturelles, Histoires Naturelles", p. 306.
 Ibid, pp. 309-19.
 Derived from A.M. Watson, Agricultural Innovation, op. cit., chapter 23.
 Hajji Khalīfa, Kashf al-zunūn, edited by Serefettin Yaltkaya and Kilisli Rifat Bilge, 2 vols., Istanbul 1941-3; vol. 2, p. 1447.
 Mustafa Al-Shihabi, "2. Works on agriculture", in "Filāha", Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition, Leiden, Brill Online 2010 (print version: vol. 2, p. 899).
 Ibn Bassal, Libro de agricultura, edited by Jose M. Millas Vallicrosa and Mohammed Aziman, Tetuan: Instituto Muley al-hasan, 1955.
 J. M. Millas Vallicrosa, "Sobre la obra de agricultura de Ibn Bassal", in Nuevos estudios sobre historia de la ciencia Espanola, Barcelona: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, 1960, pp. 139-40.
 See the recent editions of both books of Abū 'l-Khayr al-Ishbīlī: Kitāb al-Filāha. Tratado de agricultura, ed. and Spanish trans. Julia María Carabaza, Madrid 1991; 'Umdat al-tabīb fī ma'rifat al-nabāt, 2 vols., ed. Muhammad al-Arabī al-Khattābī, Beirut 1995 and Kitābu 'umdati al-tabīb fī ma'rifat al-nabāt li-kulli labīb (Libro base del médico para el conocimiento de la botánica por todo experto), ed., notas y trad. castellana de Joaquín Bustamante, Frederico Corriente, and Mahomed Tilmatine, 2 vols., Madrid 2004-07.
 In A Charbonneau, "Kitab al-Filaha of Al-Ichbili", in Bulletin d‘Etudes Arabes, vol. 6 (1946), pp. 130-144.
 It was the first to be published and also translated into Spanish (Kitab al-Filaha al-andalusiyah (The Book of Andalusian Agriculture) by Abu Zakariya Yahya ibn Muhammad ibn al-Awwam al-Ishbili (d. 1185). Translated into Spanish and annotated by Joseph Antonio Banqueri, Madrid: Imprenta Real, 1802) then into French: Ibn Al-Awwam, Le Livre de l'Agriculture d'Ibn al-Awwam, translated from Arabic by J. J. Clément-Mullet, Paris 1864-7, 3 vols. Reprinted: Ibn al-Awwam, Le livre de l'agriculture (Paris: Actes Sud, 2000).
 Ibn Khaldun, Les Prolégomènes d'Ebn Khaldoun, traduction française de W. M. de Slane, 3 vols., Paris, 1863, vol. 3, p. 166.
 See for the sources and more details G.S. Colin in "Filāha" (Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition, Leiden, Brill Online 2010; print version: vol. 2, p. 899) and J. Vernet and J. Samso, "Development of Arabic Science in Andalusia", in The Encyclopedia of the History of Arabic Sciences, edited by Roshdi Rashed, Routledge, London, 1996, vol. 1, pp. 243-76.
 The details are in E. Lévi Provençal, History, op. cit., pp. 289-90.
 Derived from V. Lagardère, "La Riziculture en Al Andalus (VIIIème-XVème siècles)", in Studia Islamica, vol. 83, 1996, pp. 71-87/
 L.Bolens, "Agriculture", op. cit., p. 22.
 See final chapter "Agriculture Retreat" in A. M. Watson, Agricultural Innovation, op. cit.