Having recently visited Peru, I thought I would share some fun information about the agriculture there, specifically as it relates to the ancient Incas!   MFC teaches lessons both on corn and on potatoes, both of which the Incas helped to develop into important crops.

The Inca’s ruled an expansive empire in South America between 1438 and 1533. Their most famous landmark is Macchu Picchu, an ancient ruin located in the Andes Mountains, near Cusco, Peru.

Here is a picture of Macchu Picchu from my trip.

Since much of the Incan Empire resided in the mountains, they had to build terraces to create flat land on which they could farm. They also had advanced aqueducts that funneled rain water and water from the mountains to their fields.

While most farmers used terraces for their crops, some terrace structures were designed uniquely for acclimatization. Because the Inca’s had to grow crops at such a high altitude, they had to first make sure that they had crops that would withstand the cold weather and lower oxygen levels. In order to do this, they would plant a terrace of corn at the lowest height. Then, they would see which plants survived, and which ones did not. For the plants that survived, they would take their seeds, and plant the next terrace up, increasing the altitude. They would continue to do this until they reached the top of the terrace structure. At this point, they would have created a fully adapted variety of crop for the given altitude. Below is a picture of one of these special terraces. As you can see, it is much steeper and has many more levels than the ones at Machu Picchu.

Today, Peru boasts over 3800 types of potatoes, and 55 varieties of corn! Imagine attempting to try each kind!