The Cultivation Genius of the Inca

The Incas were masters of plant domestication, especially potatoes. Their development of the potato was remarkable: from 8 species of weeds having toxic tubers to more than 3000 distinct potato varieties. They pioneered a seven-year potato crop rotation to prevent decimation by a nematode pest whose life cycle was six years and constructed an ingenious agricultural research station in the high Andes that reproduced growing conditions of different ecological regions of the empire. The base of the excavated depressions was consistently 15 degrees warmer than ground level and each agricultural terrace corresponded to 3000 feet (900 m) in altitude. Using this complex, the Inca could experiment with new crops and anticipate yields from anywhere in the empire, from the lowland rainforest to the montane cloud forest to the high Andes.

Suggested reading
  • The Lost Amazon: The Photographic Journey Of Richard Evans Schultes by Andrew Weil, Chris Murray, and Wade Davis
  • Light at the Edge of the World: A Journey Through the Realm of Vanishing Cultures by Wade Davis
  • Last Place on Earth by Mike Fay and Michael Nichols
  • One River: Explorations and Discoveries in the Amazon Rain Forest by Wade Davis by Wade Davis

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    Continued: People of the Rainforest
    Unless otherwise specified, this article was written by Rhett A. Butler [Bibliographic citation for this page]

    Other resources

    Contact me if you have suggestions on other rainforest-related environmental sites and resources for this country.