Ecology and Agronomy in the Middle Ages


There is substantial evidence that water hydraulics technology  and agricultural science found in the Southern Mediterranean and Islamic regions far surpassed the technology of the Northern-European and Mediterranean. Although Roman water hydraulics had been spread throughout the Roman empire, its continued use and development was far superior in the Near East, Arabia and across North Africa and in Andalusian Spain.

Studies of Muslim botany and agricultural science have shown that during the first few centuries of Islam’s expansion great advances in cultivating new crops for both food and textiles were made.

Andrew Watson’s study of agricultural innovation in the early Islamic centuries credited Arab farmers and agronomists with spreading at least 18 staple crops across the Muslim world from Central and South Asia to Andalusia and North Africa[1].  These crops included rice, sorghum wheat, bananas, artichokes, bitter oranges, lemons, watermelon, cassava and cotton. A more recent critical review tempers these claims[2]  As more archaeological work is completed a fuller picture of these developments may emerge[3].

[1] Watson, Andrew M. (1983),Agricultural Innovation in the Early Islamic World, Cambridge University Press,

[2][2] Decker, Michael (2009), “Plants and Progress: Rethinking the Islamic Agricultural Revolution”, Journal of World History 20 (2): 187–206,

[3] Squatriti, Paolo (2014). “Of Seeds, Seasons, and Seas: Andrew Watson’s Medieval Agrarian Revolution Forty Years Later”The Journal of Economic History 74 (4): 1205–1220.


For studies of Andalusian agronomy and scientific writings on agriculture in Muslim Spain, an impressive archival and research project has been recently initiated.  This can be researched at


Undated treatise on botanical science and cultivation of fruit trees (Andalusia manuscript)   Source:



Among these texts is Khayr al-Dīn ibn Ilyās, Kitāb Falāḥ al-fallāḥ, ‘The Successful Farmer’.
(transcription of manuscript No. 894, King Saud University Library, Riyadh)

Other texts available include:

Arabic Texts and English Translations

The 10th Century ‘Calendar of Cordoba’ of  ‘Arīb ibn Sa‘d
Complete Arabic transcription and translated extracts

Kitāb al-qaṣd wa’l-bayān of Ibn Baṣṣāl
Complete Arabic text

Kitāb al-Filāḥa of Abū ’l-Khayr
Translated extracts

Kitāb Falāḥ al-Fallāḥ ‘The Successful Farmer’ of Khayr al-Dīn ibn Ilyās
Complete Arabic transcription

The 18th Century Yemeni Almanac of Yūsuf al-Maḥallī
Introduction, Arabic text, and annotated translation by D. M. Varisco

External Links to Digitized Manuscripts

Kitāb Mukhtaṣṣar al-filāḥa of Ibn Baṣṣāl (Bibliothèque de manuscrits Lmuhub Ulahbib, Bejaïa, Algeria)

Kitāb ibdā’ al-malāḥa wa-inhā’ al-rajāḥa fī uṣūl ṣinā‘at al-filāḥa of Ibn Luyūn (Biblioteca de la Escuela de Estudios Árabes, Granada)

Falāḥ al-fallāḥ by Khayr al-Dīn ibn Ilyās (King Saud University Library, Riyadh)

Milaha fi ilm filaha of Abd al-Ghanī al-Nābulusī (The Internet Archive)