2
$\begingroup$

I'm worldbuilding an earth-like planet with no axial tilt, in order to maximize extreme climates (like deserts). However, there will still be pockets of fertile land, which will be populated by humans, with a technological level similar to that of the ancient civilizations of the fertile crescent, like the babylonians.

One of the side effects of not having an axial tilt is the minimization of seasons. So it got me thinking, on how this would interphere with an agricultural society, namely with seeding and harvest seasons...

Would it be feasible to cultivate seasonal plants in such an environment, like wheat or grapewhine? Or would it be better to use plants that are not seasonal, like barley or rice (if my research doesn't fail me they have seasons, but may be perennial)?

I would like my civilization to have wheat and wine, would it be possible?

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Everything else being equal, you will be able to grow them all year round. Some Earth cereals, such as maize or tomatoes, will work unchanged. Some will be a little different than on Earth; for example, most kinds of wheat need the cold of winter, but there are some "spring" varieties of wheat which don't need the cold to germinate. Remember that in the tropical and subtropical areas seasons are not defined by warmth and cold, but by other factors such as rain... And in equatorial areas there are no seasons to speak of. Extreme climates may or may not be maximized, that depends on geography. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Aug 6 '17 at 10:34
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'm sorry to look pedantic here, but I think this is important since you used the reality check tag: There cannot be "no axial tilt". There might be "very little tilt", but a perfect alignment is just so improbable that it is impossible. $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Aug 6 '17 at 10:46
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35: You're absolutely right, but I wasn't going for absolute scientific accuracy. Just to clarify, I don't mean a 0,00º axial tilt, but rather a negligible axial tilt. $\endgroup$ – Pedro Gabriel Aug 9 '17 at 10:14
6
$\begingroup$

Many (if not all) plants in our Earth adapted to season cycle, it's not the other way around. This means that, unless you are thinking of "straightening" our world axis, somehow, the plants in that world would have adapted to the no-seasons situation.

It is unclear (to me) what You exactly need:

  • If you need wheat and grape then there's nothing to do, they would be adapted and thus have a growth cycle not synchronized with seasons (that do not exist).
    • wheat would be harvested a few months after seeding
    • grape will be flowering and maturing all year around (possibly the same plant will have flowers and grapes at the same time.
  • if, OTOH, you want to have some seasonal effect on climate in a tiltless world (defeating reason for axial straightening) easiest is a very large moon (better yet: have the planet to be a satellite of a gas giant; i.e.: the "moon" is bigger than the planet) having a very slow revolution; tidal effect and "phases" would produce enough variation to allow plants to "lock" into the cycle.

Addendum:

As OP stated his interest in a no-season agriculture a few clarifications are in order:

In our Earth (the only ecosystem we can study, to date) there are several different kind of plants (please note I'm not mother-tongue English, so I don't know the correct tecnical terms, correct me as needed); main categories are:

  • Perennial: these plants live several years and, generally follow a yearly cycle, but some have longer periods (e.g.: many fruit tree will produce more fruits on alternating years). These plants, with no season cycle, would adapt following one of several possible patterns:
    • Random flowering: flowers will appear randomly all year around and each blossom will follow its course to ripe fruit;these plants will likely have flowers and fruits at all degrees of maturation at the same time (oranges and lemons, while season-locked, can have fruits and flowers at the same time).
    • Synchronized flowering: the whole plant will decide to flower and it will do it in a synchronized way, following normal maturation; note several nearby plants can decide to "lock" together and follow the same cycle with few days distance, while same plants a few kilometers away can have weeks differences (citation needed).
    • Locked flowering: lock on certain external event; some desert plants will start flowering as soon as they get some rain, independently of season. If some plant originated in very arid region proves useful you can "force" start of cycle irrigating.
  • Annual: these plants die each year after producing seeds; in general these will start a timed cycle whenever seeded; seeds may wait for "favorable conditions" to sprout, this may include enough humidity (rain/irrigation) or other, more exotic, triggers, like a passing swarm of insects useful for for pollination.
$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ This was an interesting answer. It is quite true that the species (including wheat and grapewine) would have evolved to adapt to this situation. But still, I was kind of stumped on how to organize the harvest seasons of my predominantly agricultural civ. So thank you for that. Just to clarify, what I wanted from this question is your first point, not the second point (having seasonal effects would pretty much destroy what I was going at by removing the axial tilt). $\endgroup$ – Pedro Gabriel Aug 9 '17 at 10:10
  • $\begingroup$ @PedroGabriel; thanks. Please consider accepting the answer, if you see nothing better. I'll update the answer to give you a few more data $\endgroup$ – ZioByte Aug 9 '17 at 20:56
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @PedroGabriel harvest will likely be continuous as different farmers fields reach maturity at different times, this will make community sharing of farm equipment easier since everyone is not plowing/planting/harvesting at the same time. you can even have nomadic/migrant farm hands who move from farm to farm all year long working at each farm only as long as it takes to harvest, they could even be paid in part of the harvest. . $\endgroup$ – John Aug 9 '17 at 22:31
  • $\begingroup$ @zyobyte: Excellent adendum. Final question: since the OP mentions agricultural seasons, this means that, as John has said, the harvest will be continuous, right? Or, at the very least, farmers will wait for those "favorable conditions" to seed their fields, but with otherwise no circannual preponderance (i.e. January, August, etc...), correct? $\endgroup$ – Pedro Gabriel Aug 10 '17 at 10:05
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @PedroGabriel: I'm a bit confused: aren't you the OP (Original Poster)? Anyways: it depends on the specific of the plants; there would be no circannual correlation because you have no "signal" to lock to. For annual plants it's presumable cultivators will decide the cycle. For perennials it depends on the kind. When I speak about "locking on external condition" I refer to automatic evolutionary linkage, such as some desert plants that will flower after a a rain, whenever it happens. $\endgroup$ – ZioByte Aug 10 '17 at 11:38
2
$\begingroup$

Grapevines

(Although grapewine as a riff on wine grapes is darn clever!)

Ivy, grape, are (or can be) vines. (In the UK vines means grapevines, in the US vines often refer to other plant species)

Our hearts are great examples of periodic biology. No seasons necessary. I suspect that plants evolving on a minimal season world would either be turtles, with a constant growth rate, or hares (rabbits) which grow rapidly, exhausting near-by resources and then either die off or "hibernate" to allow those resources to recover. I imagine both would occur.

On such a world, there would be almost no annual signals (assuming a sufficiently circular orbit, but whether an eccentricity of 0.01 or 0.005 would be enough to cue plant growth or reproduction? Who knows.) One scenario is like locusts or cicada, with enormous surges in numbers triggered by who knows what. Or like lemmings, which for reasons not immediately apparent suddenly gather in huge numbers and migrate to their deaths.

I picture a "wave" of some kudzu like vine feeding on and choking other plants (and animals), reproducing then dying only for the wave to reform a few miles away. One thing I'm pretty sure of, is that on such a planet the weather will be both more constant and yet have sudden "black swan" events.

As for plants, they might have triggers (and some very complex interactions between species or locations can be imagined) or they might not. Whatever maximizes their reproductive fitness in that particular location.

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Hi again - just a small note to mention that you might find an answer better received if you spaced it out a bit more using paragraphs as (personally) I find shorter paragraphs easier to take in on a screen, when they're on different points. I do particularly like your idea of having an elliptical orbit :) $\endgroup$ – Mithrandir24601 Aug 9 '17 at 23:28
  • $\begingroup$ @redrubberball Very good answer. Thank you very much. I'll have to explain my readers that the grapes they are reading about on my world are different from the grapes of our world, because of environmental differences. :P $\endgroup$ – Pedro Gabriel Aug 10 '17 at 9:59
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @redrubberball: Oh, and welcome to Worldbuilding Stack Exchange! :) $\endgroup$ – Pedro Gabriel Aug 10 '17 at 9:59
1
$\begingroup$

You could choose to have an elliptical orbit, and this would create a seasonal effect. It would however be pretty similar in result to having an Axial Tilt. I would look to produce a climatic variance through a different agency. There's a couple of methods I can think of

  1. Multiple Moons, that have extremely slow orbits and create tidal surges that are extreme.
  2. Ocean Currents that bring heat and then switch to bringing cold. Of course - explaining ocean currents that change their pattern regularly is a bit problematic. You could possibly do this by having a high iron content in the water - and having the magnetic field switch regularly. Like an annual metronome.
  3. A gravitational lens that waxes and wanes - causing localised areas of massively concentrated sunlight. The basis for the gravitational lens could be some super dense minerals in mountain ranges - this would give only very specific locales this variegated weather pattern. Come to think of it - if you had a couple of these over the poles - and they switched on for three months of the year - they could melt a massive amount of ice/snow - and cause a regular seasonal movement of water. This could cause clouds and some potentially ginormous weather patterns that could create the seasons you are after.
  4. Magic. Potentially through individuals that are talented in a certain way - which gives all sorts of options for conflict by controlling those individuals. Or even by those individuals controlling the people.
  5. Magic. Potentially through creation of a supreme structure (Think Pyramids) that requires a massive society wide effort to put in place at massive capital cost. (Labour, Resource etc). This structure creates energy imbalances which cause your seasonal weather patterns you are after. Of course this type of construct is rife with plot opportunity - from creation of the structure through to control and maintenance and loss of knowledge of the workings.
  6. Science - a technological approach where seasons are created - perhaps by space mirrors? https://www.livescience.com/22202-space-mirrors-global-warming.html Of course - developing this technology would only be desirable by your population if they knew of the benefits of seasons - that would mean they would have to at least have known of other planets - or possibly migrated here from earth.

Some of the choices I've outlined depend on the plotline you are trying to develop...

Best of luck finding a decent solution!

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ I thank you for your answer. Unfortunately, the majority of your suggestions do not adjust either to the world or the civ I outlined above. If I have to chose, I'll just stick with perennial crops... seems much simpler. But either way, it was an interesting read. :) $\endgroup$ – Pedro Gabriel Aug 9 '17 at 10:13
1
$\begingroup$

Yes you could have agriculture, but it would be limited to what grows in the tropics now.

Most temperate plants have a dormancy period and a chilling requirement. This is true for both seeds and buds.

E.g. most conifer seeds require 30-90 days stored moist at temperataures between 2 and 5 C. Peaches require somewhere around 140 days of below 40 F temps before they will break bud in spring. Some varities of peaches can't be grown in Georgia. Winters aren't cool enough long enough. Spruce trees require 300 to 1500 hours of temperatures below 5 C to break bud the next spring.

Chilling requirements are natures way to not get sucked in by an early spring, or a February thaw.


There's a class of plants called winter annuals. Stinkweed is the main example I know. It will grow anytime the temp is above freezing, and can go through it's entire life cycle in 3 weeks. In unfavorable conditions is gets 3 inches high and produces a dozen seeds. In good conditions it grows 2 feet high and produces thousands. The seeds have variable thickness coatings so t hey don't all sprout at the same time. Some stay inthe soil for years.

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.