Among the textile plants, the most ancient one in Italy, flax, is by now of little importance; the cultivation of flax by fiber, spread in various parts of Italy (Sicily, Calabria, Abruzzo, Lazio, Lombardy, Sardinia), occupies limited areas and production tends to contract rather (23-25,000 quintals a year); a little more extensive, but nevertheless rapidly declining is the cultivation of flax from seed, which is mainly done in Sicily, but also in Calabria, Emilia, etc. (about 50,000 q. per year). Hemp, already known in Roman times, has a much greater importance; indeed, after the USSR, Italy is the first among the producing countries and contributes, on average, for about one fifth, to the world product. Cultivation is almost exclusive to Emilia and Terra di Lavoro; the cultivated area varies considerably with the variation of the convenience of using land for this cultivation that is also suitable for other things. Production has increased somewhat compared to the pre-war period; the maximum was reached in 1925 with over 1,200,000 quintals, then there was a decrease, especially in the years 1931-32 (1932: 555,000 quintals). It should be remembered that, while in the USSR hemp is largely consumed in the country, Italy dedicates about two thirds of its product to export, obtaining considerable benefits; it is therefore the first exporting state in the world and has the greatest interest in maintaining this primacy, which justifies the attention given today to this crop of ours.
According to TIMEDICTIONARY, the cultivation of cotton, which still a little more than half a century ago was fairly widespread in Sicily and gave an annual product of about 300,000 quintals (raw cotton), is now limited to some very small areas of the Gela plain and neighboring regions, and, despite the slight increase in the last few years prior to the present cotton crisis, it contributes in an absolutely minimal measure to the needs of the national industry. Cotton growing, however, seems susceptible to some greater development, as well as in southern Sicily, also in Sardinia, in the Tarantino, in Calabria, always with the aid of irrigation.
But the two industrial plants, which are today most important in Italy, beetroot and tobacco, are of recent introduction. It is not more than a third of a century that sugar beet cultivation began with us, and Italy already dedicates 110-115,000 hectares to it, of which more than nine tenths belong to Veneto (Rovigo) and ‘Emilia (provinces of Ferrara and Bologna); production, which increased until 1930, the year in which it exceeded 40 million quintals (pre-war average about 18 million), then also dropped; however, it always remains sufficient for national needs and has therefore freed us from a heavy burden towards foreign countries.
For tobacco, which, both for processing and for sale, is a state monopoly, the introduction and development are even more recent. Both the area destined for cultivation, which now exceeds 40,000 hectares, as well as the production, are growing year by year. A little less than half of the cultivated area is in Puglia (Leccese), where there are favorable climate and soil conditions but several varieties are grown today in the Veneto, in Campania (Terra di Lavoro, Salerno countryside), in Tuscany , in Emilia, in Umbria. Production, which has risen to over 500,000 quintals (almost fivefold compared to the last pre-war years), now makes up for four fifths of the country’s consumption, albeit growing, while before the war our factories imported over 70% of tobacco from abroad. in leaves.
Finally, in examining agricultural production in Italy, fodder, products of artificial, stable meadows, should not be forgotten. According to official data, these occupy an area of over 2¼ million hectares (including grasslands) and produce hay equal to 230-270 million quintals per year. Forage crops tend to spread, especially in Lombardy, Emilia, Piedmont, Tuscany, but new areas are also being conquered elsewhere. Their progress is closely related to the development and improvement of livestock, especially cattle, as will be discussed shortly.
Given the climate conditions mentioned elsewhere, many crops in Italy are subsidized by irrigation, which is necessary to supplement the extent of the contribution that rainfall makes to soil moisture. The studies in this regard, somewhat neglected in the past, have now been carried out systematically, both as regards the rainfall conditions of the various Italian regions (previously examined), and as regards the regime of surface and groundwater, in order to determine the water availability of the main watercourses in the April-September semester, which is the one in which almost exclusively the distribution of water for irrigation use is carried out. The diagram on p. 756 shows the different behavior of some Italian rivers taken as typical. The practices relating to irrigation are very different, not only in remote regions, but also in nearby locations, and the methods of water distribution are not yet rationally regulated everywhere. Throughout the Po Valley, where the practice of irrigation is more widespread, it is used above all in rice fields (meadows), in forage meadows and in arable land; in peninsular Italy, as well as in the meadows, largely in horticultural crops, and in the South and islands also for citrus groves and vineyards. In Lombardy 33% of the agricultural area is irrigated, in Puglia and Sardinia just 0.3%. The cartogram on p. 755 shows the area currently irrigated in the various regions of Italy.