This article describes agricultural practices of fertilization in the NW of the Iberian Peninsula between 1750 and 1900, where a leguminous plant called gorse (Ulex Europaeus) was used as bedding for livestock in order to produce manure. During the period examined, this whole region experienced a process of agricultural intensification which resulted in a net loss of nutrients in the soil. Peasants dealt with the increasing nutrient requirements by adapting land and livestock management in order to produce more manure during the second half of the 20th century. However, this was done at the expense of nutrient reserves in extensively managed areas, all of which resulted in an unsustainable agricultural pattern. Our data also suggest that the context of nutrient scarcity could be related to changes in the migration pattern, which started to be more intense after 1850 and preferred distant destinations (America), thus switching from seasonal to permanent stays.
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