Are there other examples like the Irish Potato Famine, where a specific crop failed (from disease) and the ripple effects were felt through history? It seems like there must be. Thanks in advance for any answers.
This is probably not exactly what you are looking for, but the thought of having to feed my family primarily on turnips haunts me to this day.
Now, I love rutabagas, but doubt that I’d want to subsist solely on them for any length of time more than about a week. But, still… tastier than a plain ol’ turnip.
Jerusalem artichokes, very easy to grow, Depression era food. I grew them once but I don’t have space now. It also for good diabetes.
Thanks, @SoCalGardenNut. I grow Jerusalem artichokes as an in-ground calorie reserve for exactly that reason. But I’m curious about historical examples where a staple food crop failed from disease or blight or something along those lines.
We came very close in the early 1970’s when corn cytoplasmic male sterility was linked to susceptibility to southern corn leaf blight. Almost all of the hybrid corn grown at that time was susceptible. One nearly disastrous harvest and breeders rotated to alternative sources of male sterility. Very few people know how close we came to starvation at that time.
The only other examples I know of were not related to disease, but rather to lack of rain. About 60 a.d., Jerusalem and environs had so little rainfall that the entire region’s wheat/spelt crops failed. They imported wheat from Egypt though many people starved.
My submission would definitely be chestnut blight. It had a huge effect on rural Appalachian life in particular, as they were a very significant calorie and money source. American chestnuts used to be incredibly abundant.
i went from 2 red and 2 reg. j. artichokes to a 6’ x12’ tightly growing patch in 3 years. initially mulched them with chic bedding after planting and haven’t touched them since. also have groundnuts growing under my pines. they send vines into the trees that die back in the fall. have even tried them but they are there and spreading each year. with goings on in this world it doesn’t hurt to have reserves that no one recognizes. i live in potato country and they still get hit with late blight in wet years but its manageable with fungicides and blight resistant cultivars. i remember as a kid some farmers dumping a whole potato houses full of rotten potatoes in the woods. could smell them a mile away.
Vegetables and fruit are very cheap here. If worse comes worse I’ll start eating my hostas, lol.
Make up a nice salad dressing for them.
Not quite what you are looking for either, but an interesting crisis averted. Ran across it while trying to ID a very docile bee carrying a piece of folded leaf. The leaves still on the trees looked like a hole punch had been used by the edge.
“Development of the alfalfa leafcutter bee industry saved the alfalfa seed industry in the 1940s and 50’s when wild pollinators could not keep up with the increase in acreage.”
“Honey bees are reluctant pollinators of alfalfa, due to their apparent aversion to being struck forcefully in the head when the flower is tripped.”
Apologies up front…
I know this isn’t what you are looking for, but I have a deep fascination for this subject. Particularly for the scocial-economic factors that set the stage for this disaster. A large population of people without the option to own their own property who faced ever escalating rental costs on smaller and smaller plots of land until the only crop that could produce enough calories per acre to keep their families alive was the potato. Factor in that the best land was reserved for cattle and the humans made due with the marginal land. The potatoes were not even a cash crop, it was just food to stay alive. The adults labored elsewhere for enough money to cover rent. If you couldn’t make rent - the family was out in the cold.
If you haven’t read up on the subject, it is worth doing so. Wikipedia does a decent job of summarizing the situation:
I can’t help but draw some parallels between that situation and the unprecedented increases in the cost of real estate that we see going on around us. While far from as drastic as the situation faced by the Irish back then, I have to think it is not in the best interest of the American family to have to compete head to head with corporations, investment funds and foreign investors when it comes to buying a family home. I am fortunate to own my home, but I worry about kids getting their start in life these days and getting trapped in the rent cycle because they can’t get ahead enough to buy a house.
I believe there is concern now in commercial banana production. What We Can Learn From the Near-Extinction of Bananas | Time
It would be difficult to replicate the Irish potato famine. Among the Irish poor (i.e.most of the native Irish), potatoes were their ONLY solid food. Maybe there are similar situations, but hard to imagine a worse situation.
Ireland is the only country in the world where it’s current population is less than its population in 1840.
If my food whacked me in the head when I tried to eat it, I’d look for a new source too! Imagine how you would feel about harvesting an apple…
Here is a list of famines thru time. Mostly related to crop failures. Either too much water or drought has killed billions and billions.
its already at that point in Canada. for some reason, no one knows why, land and homes near any populated area start at 500,000 for 2 bedroom house on a half acre in bad disrepair. for some reason all the undeveloped land isnt for sale there of which they have alot of. my stepson and his fiancé make nearly $100000 a year and have no debt other than her leased vehicle and they struggle to live in the outskirts of Halifax. their 2 bedroom rent in a older building built in the 70’s has gone up for a 2nd time in 3 years to $1800 a month! the city cant build enough housing fast enough to keep people in rents. many working poor are living in their vans and suvs in big box store parking lots because they cant afford or find rents. its gotten 10xs worse in the last 2 years according to my stepson. we saw it last year when we went to visit. thefts are through the roof as are shootings in a country that has very strict gun laws. i dont get why people arent offered to buy a small piece of land to be able to build a small home and grow some crops on to alleviate the problem. i think the countries elites are keeping it for themselves. reason why my stepsons moving back to the states. i used to love to vacation in Canada. not anymore.
Same situation here in Colorado. 500k for a decent house here.
The banana was a big one people talk about because it showed why you should not totally rely on one cultivar of fruit. A disease targeted the one type of banana we grew. Once banana became available again they had a day only kids could eat a banana because it was so long to get a banana the kids had never tried one. The other big case I know of was the tulip bubble. People were selling their house for a tulip and the price of tulips went to nothing over night.