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Agriculture Rework: seed production, pests and diseases, and green manure

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I have a detailed proposal to improve agriculture and redesign the seed production mechanics in Vintage Story, making it more realistic and rewarding.


1. Seed Production
The initial idea behind this suggestion is to introduce a farming system that enhances gameplay and realism for crops by adding complexity to the growth cycles of some crops, and allowing for plant propagation.


1.1. Seed-bearing Crops
Crops such as cereals (wheat, rye, spelt, rice), legumes (soybeans, peanuts), and industrial crops (flax) will exclusively produce grains upon harvest (excepting flax, which also produces flax fiber). These grains can be either replanted or used to produce food. Players must decide how much grain to use for replanting and how much for consumption or manufacturing.

Implementation: Upon harvesting these crops, only grains are obtained. In the crafting grid, grains can be converted into seeds (1 grain = 1 seed bag). This introduces a layer of resource management, as players need to balance between consumption and future production.


1.2. Biennial Crops
Biennial crops such as brassicas (cabbages, turnips), root vegetables (carrots, parsnips), and bulbs (onions, garlic) will have two growth phases.

Phase 1: Produces roots, bulbs, or vegetables ready for harvest.

Phase 2: If not harvested, plants will flower and produce seeds. These plants will not produce vegetables, only seeds.

Players must decide how many plants to harvest for immediate consumption and how many to leave for seed production.


1.3. Herbaceous Fruits

Herbaceous fruit crops (cucumber, pumpkin, eggplant, etc.) produce fruits that can be consumed or used to obtain seeds. Fruits can be placed in the crafting grid to extract one seed bag per fruit. Players must decide how many fruits to use for seeds and how many for consumption.


1.4. Other Crops

For other crops not covered in the above categories, unique growth cycles and specific methods of seed production can be designed.


1.5. Advantages of the Proposed Rework

The advantages of the proposed seed production system in Vintage Story are significant, offering both agricultural realism and improvements in resource management:

Realistic Life Cycle: The growth and reproduction phases closely mimic the real-life plant cycle of crops. Plants will only produce seeds once they reach full maturity.

Real Agronomic Decisions: Players face decisions similar to those of real farmers. They must balance between harvesting for immediate consumption and leaving plants for future seed production. This encourages strategic planning and careful resource management.

Renewable Resources: By allowing the extraction of multiple seeds from each plant, crops become renewable and replicable resources. This means players can expand their agricultural production without solely depending on initially collected seeds. It represents a shift towards more sustainable and self-sufficient agriculture in the game.


2. Pests and Diseases
Incorporating pests and diseases adds a significant layer of challenge and realism to the agricultural experience in Vintage Story.

2.1. Diseases
Diseases, primarily fungi, arise with a low probability but can spread rapidly once present. They have an affinity for plants of the same species or type, favoring propagation in areas with concentrated crops of the same type.

Mitigation through Diversification:
Creating strips of different crops can effectively reduce the risk of disease spread to a certain extent. For example, strips of up to three columns of the same type have the same propagation rate as a single column, optimizing the use of tools like the scythe.

Soil Impact:
Once an infected plant is harvested, the fungus persists in the soil. Crop rotation or leaving areas fallow can help eliminate the soil-borne fungus.

Cereal Resistance:
Cereals exhibit higher natural resistance to diseases, reducing their likelihood of occurrence and spread.


2.2. Pests
Pests have a higher probability of appearing than diseases, although their direct impact is less severe. They spread slowly and can affect different types of adjacent crops.

Types of Pests:
Aphids: Can be effectively controlled by planting wildflowers near crops to attract beneficial insects.
Rabbits: Pose a particular threat to root crops and require more active measures such as fences, guard dogs, traps, or hunting for control.


2.3. Countermeasures:
Cultural Measures:
Crop Rotation: Changing the type of crop planted in a plot after each harvest reduces the likelihood of diseases and pests.
Fallowing: Leaving plots unplanted for a season allows diseases present in the soil to naturally die off.
Wildflowers: Planting flowers attracts beneficial insects that can control aphid pests.
Fences and Guard Wolves: Using physical barriers and guard animals to protect crops from rabbit pests.
Hunting: Hunting rabbits to reduce their impact.

Chemical Measures:
Sulfur Application: Sulfur can be used to treat and prevent fungal diseases in crops.
Botanical and Alchemical Pesticides: Developing and applying pesticides derived from other plants, or crafted through alchemy (primitive chemistry), to control pests.


2.4. Conclusions
Integrating these mechanics into Vintage Story not only increases the strategic complexity of the game but also educates players about realistic and sustainable agricultural practices. Players must carefully manage their crops and environment to mitigate risks and maximize productivity, providing a rich and challenging gaming experience.

However, the implementation of pests and diseases should be handled carefully to avoid negatively impacting gameplay. Measures should be implemented to ensure that players do not have to constantly monitor crops, allowing them to engage in other activities such as mining, hunting, exploration, and crafting.


3. Forage Crops and Nitrogen Fixation (Green Manure)
The main suggestion of this section is to add alfalfa and clover as cultivable plants.
Adding alfalfa and clover as crops in Vintage Story can provide multiple benefits for soil fertility and animal forage supply.

Alfalfa and clover have very low nutrient requirements and grow quickly, making them easy to cultivate even in low-quality soils, and can be harvested multiple times in a season using a scythe or knife.


3.1 Nitrogen Fixation - Green Manure
One of the main advantages of alfalfa and clover is their ability to fix nitrogen in the soil, improving its fertility.
Alfalfa and clover can be grown during fallow periods to restore and enrich the soil without the need for chemical fertilizers.
After several cycles of alfalfa and clover cultivation, poor soils can become medium soils, and medium soils can become rich soils.


3.2. Use of Alfalfa and Clover as Forage
Alfalfa and clover can be harvested and used as forage for a variety of livestock, including horses (if added), deers, cows, goats, wild boars, and rabbits.

Harvesting and Storage: Alfalfa can be harvested at its optimal point, dried, fermented, and stored for later use as forage.


3.3. Composting
Alfalfa and clover can be particularly useful in composting due to their high nitrogen content. They can help accelerate the composting process.


Special mention

I want to thank you for your attention. Any feedback, criticism or countersuggestion is welcome.

I also want to give special thanks to Poncho for providing the idea of pests and diseases, and Thorfinn for providing the idea of biennial crops.

Edited by Doctor Antiquarium
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Sounds good. Still prefer to see it in a mod first, but seems like it would be a good fit, eventually.

  • You should add legumes to your nitrogen-fixing crops. Also, brassicas are common in cover crops (planted at or a week or two before harvest) for corn fields in our area. And alfalfa will eventually slow down or even die out if too much nitrogen builds up in the soil. I think the game does this by default -- all crops (even fallow) essentially "fix" whatever nutrients they do not use.
  • The improvement of soil in situ is an interesting one. Not sure its too realistic, though. Yes, it's been the standard for land management for the last century or so, but we are finding out that it's wrong. The interaction of hooved animals in large, dense herds always on the move appears to be the key.
  • The three-wide strips is a good add. I realized later that if I plant the 8-around-1 differently, it's only 4 scythe swipes for 2 tiles, instead of 3 for 2 in the base game, but the three-wide strip makes it more player-friendly.

Incidentally, you already kind of have to do crop rotation. Either that or fallow. You can't just plant the same crops in the same field and have any kind of productivity.

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