Fallow land in France
19.12.2017, by Bénédicte Gaillard
The entries are still in process, the e-atlas is still under development
It started around the year 1000 after JC.
Jacques Gilibert, de la jachère et des autres solutions, Courrier de l'Environnement de l'INRA n° 19
Fallow land still occurs in France although the meaning of fallow land slowly derived under the influence of works written for land owners by urban scholars. Sometimes disregarding agricultural work and the exact nature of fallow land they considered it as an archaic practice. During the 16th Century the confusion between fallow land and wasteland appeared. During the 18th Century the practice of fallow land was seen as unprofitable thus was fought. One of the most vigorous adversaries of fallow land was the agronomist Victor Yvart during the 19th Century. His influence has been determining, in particular in the sense of the term “terre au repos” (resting land) given to fallow land in dictionaries, despite the rebuttal attempts of renowned agronomists such as Pierre-Paul Dehérain. Over the 19th Century the invention of new tools limiting the proliferation of weeds and the introduction of artificial fertilizers led to the complete abandonment of the fallow land practice replaced by artificial (man made) meadows and forage crop, in the frame of an agricultural revolution.
It is part of the cultivation of different crops.
It is connected to the altitude, type of soil and production on it.
Since the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union dating from 1992 fallow lands are regulated in order to limit the overproduction of certain cultures, notably cereals. The farmers have to “freeze” their soil in exchange of remuneration.
The Common Agricultural Policy has the following strategy:
- a short conjectural part: the “short” “turning” fallow land (1-2 years)
- a longer conjectural part: the “middle” to “long” fallow land (5-10 years)
- a very long part that is a more or less definitive retreat from the agricultural production
It is combined with a traditional agricultural activity and cultivation method reflected in the perception of the soil and the necessity to use it efficiently.
It is connected to the use of the land for crop and to the cultivation method.
Fallow land that enables flowery meadows are high appreciated for the aesthetic aspect that they give to the landscape.
Fallow land is well-known by farmers and land owners but less known to the public who knows the current meaning of fallow land (abandoned soil) but who does not necessarily know the evolution of the meaning and the practice over time.
Fallow land brings a particular problem: its meaning changed totally in the past 2 centuries. Nowadays this term means the state of a soil that could produce but that is temporarily abandoned. However during the past 1000 years and until the 20th Century cultivators named fallow land the ensemble of Spring and Summer cultivation conditions that prepared the Autumn sowings, as well as the soils that received these conditions, and the amount of time that was consecrated to them.
Fallow land was thus a tilled soil contrary to its current meaning.