The forms of economy exercised in Germany are agriculture, forestry, hunting, fishing, mineral extraction, industry, commerce and transport services. Statistics show that from 1870 onwards, Germany has been increasingly transforming itself, as we have said, from an agrarian state into an industrial one. The population increased and the soil was no longer enough to feed it; therefore it was necessary to give more and more to the industries, to export their products and to be able to import raw materials and foodstuffs. From the censuses of the years 1882, 1895 and 1907, the population dedicated to industries and commerce is constantly increasing, while the living population of agriculture and forestry is decreasing. While the percentages relating to the population employed in agriculture and forestry were, for the years indicated, respectively 42.5%, 35.8% and 28.6%, industry, mines and construction occupied respectively 35.5%, 39.1%, 42.8% of the population. In 1882, 10% of the population lived on trade and transport; this figure had risen to 13.4% in 1907. From 1882 to 1907 the number of people attending to agriculture and forestry decreased by 13.9%, while the number of people especially increased (about 8.5%) employed in industries, mines and construction (to a lesser extent, about 3.8%, the number of people employed in commerce, communications, hotels, breweries, etc. increased). 8% of the population. In 1882, 10% of the population lived on trade and transport; this figure had risen to 13.4% in 1907. From 1882 to 1907 the number of people attending to agriculture and forestry decreased by 13.9%, while the number of people especially increased (about 8.5%) employed in industries, mines and construction (to a lesser extent, about 3.8%, the number of people employed in commerce, communications, hotels, breweries, etc. increased). 8% of the population. In 1882, 10% of the population lived on trade and transport; this figure had risen to 13.4% in 1907. From 1882 to 1907 the number of people attending to agriculture and forestry decreased by 13.9%, while the number of people especially increased (about 8.5%) employed in industries, mines and construction (to a lesser extent, about 3.8%, the number of people employed in commerce, communications, hotels, breweries, etc. increased).
In the serious conditions that occurred after the World War, as shown in the 1925 census, the agricultural population increased slightly and the industrial population slightly decreased. In fact, if in order to have rigorously comparable data, in the calculation of the percentages relating to 1907, the population lost by Germany following the peace treaties is excluded, it appears that within the new borders, 27.1% were employed in agriculture and forestry at the time. 44% of the population, in industries and mines: the census carried out after the World War gave 30.5% for agriculture and forestry and only 41.4% for industries and crafts.
This evolution of economic activity depended on the nature of the territory: the mineral riches made it possible for the industries to undergo an impressive development, to which agriculture itself could compete with the industries that derive from it. Far from regressing, it considerably increased the quantity of its products and improved their quality, thanks to the application of increasingly rational methods. Almost everywhere, spontaneous plant associations either lost ground in the face of completely artificial ones or were profoundly modified by man; among these mainly the woods. Over time, dense forests were uprooted, large swampy areas dried up, so that only a few spaces are not subject to cultivation: these are the woods and barren land. Of the state area only 9.3% represents unproductive land; of this figure, however, 6.5% corresponds to the spaces occupied by houses, streets and waters, so that the truly economically useless land in Germany occupies only 2.8% of the land area; the woods account for 25.9%. Cultivated land (fields, vegetable gardens, vineyards) comprise 48.8%; meadows occupy 11%, pastures 5%; so that the total area from which vegetable products are obtained corresponds to 64.8%, that is almost2 / 3 of the state territory. In Europe, France alone, with 67% of state productive area, surpasses Germany in this. The cultivated area is very unevenly distributed. The largest cultivated regions are found in the Lowlands, where 60% of the areas of the Prussian province of Saxony and Anhalt are cultivated. Here the climate does not place restrictions on agriculture, so that only the barren sands, marshes and peat bogs are uncultivated. The marshes still have considerable extension in Luxembourg, where the cultivated area represents 30% of the total.
In the rest of Germany the mountainous terrain excludes crops from considerable areas (particularly from the higher parts) and therefore agricultural production in the mountains is limited. On the other hand, in the Middle Mountains a magnificent forest mantle covers 50% of the soil and more than a quarter of the total area of the state is covered with forests: according to a calculation of 1927, these occupy 12,654,176 ha. In addition to the Medium Mountains just mentioned, the richest woodlands are the Bavarian Alps and the sandy areas of the Northern Lowlands. The coasts and some provinces (East Prussia) are poor in forests. In the last decades not a few areas (moors, dunes, mountain slopes) considered unproductive from the agrarian point of view, have been artificially afforested. The acifolian essences (pines, firs,2 / 3 of the forest area and predominate in the coldest part of Eastern Europe; 2 / 3it is of broad-leaved trees (especially beech; to a lesser extent oaks, birches, alders), which predominate in western Germany. About half of the woods are state and municipal property. German forestry follows the most rational modern methods and is the first in the world. The forests of Germany provide a great deal and excellent timber, the use of which gives rise to numerous industries. In the wooded villages there are many factories for the processing and transformation of timber. In Thuringia sawmills, paper and pulp factories, in the Ore Mountains and in the Black Forest the art of carving, toys. However, timber is not enough for needs and therefore it is imported every year from Austria, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. The most important market is that of Hamburg.
The importance of German agriculture can already be seen in the fact that, despite the loss of rich agricultural areas suffered with the cession of Alsace and Posnania, it is able to produce enough for the population for nine months of the year. The most important branch of agriculture is the production of cereals, which occupy most of the fields. More particularly, it can be said that, in relation to climatic conditions, Germany is in this respect characterized by the prevalence of rye and oats over other cereals. In northern Germany, especially in the NE. and to the NO., rye is grown in more than half of the area destined for cereals and in the Ems region on over 70%. Oats are grown all over Germany and, as they love cool, rainy summers, climbs the mountains up to 800-1000 m. The dammed and drained land (Marschen) of the coastal region of NO., Silesia and East Prussia are the countries of greatest production. Of wheat, the climate excludes some varieties from Germany: demanding fertile soil and mild winters, it is best done in the south-western part, in the province of Saxony, in Brunswick and in Silesia. But in most parts of northern Germany, due to the large extent of the sandy soils, the cultivation of wheat is of negligible economic importance. Spelled is grown in Württemberg, Baden and Bavaria. The cultivation of barley has considerable importance in Germany. Excellent beer barley thrives between 45th and 58th parallel, in clayey and marly alluvial soils. The largest extensions given to this cereal are in Hesse, Bavaria, Württemberg,
The common potato (Solanum tuberosum) has a greater importance in Germany as a food and industrial plant (alcohol, starch) than in any other country in Europe: it occupies 12% of the cultivated area. Compared to cereals, it has the disadvantage of not being able to be transported without damage and therefore it is grown above all where the population is dense, that is, in industrial countries (along the Rhine and tributaries, in the state and in the Prussian province of Saxony, in Silesia); it is also quite extensively cultivated on the mountains and in the sandy soils of the region east of Elba, where starch and alcohol are also obtained from it. Germany also ranks first in beet and hops production. Beetroot is very important in German agriculture also due to the beneficial repercussions that the other crops derived from careful preparation of the soil that the plant requires. It is most intensively cultivated in the fertile territories. The area of löss in the mountains of middle Germany, the alluvial soils along the Elbe and the Oder, the plains along the Rhine and also the Marschen of the NW region. they are the countries where production is greatest. Hops are grown especially in the southern part, and especially in Bavaria and Franconia, where Nuremberg is the most important world market. Some of the hops are exported. Another industrial plant grown in Germany is tobacco. The territories of greatest production of tobacco are Baden, the Bavarian Palatinate, Middle Franconia and Ukermark. The crop, however, no longer has the extent it had in the past (from 1882 to 1930 it was reduced from 27,250 hectares to 9164) despite the fact that consumption increased due to the increase in population.
Of the agricultural products mentioned, the table indicates the cultivated area (in thousands of ha.), The quantity produced (in thousands of q.) And the average production per ha. in the years 1911-13, 1929 and 1930.
Fruit growing, horticulture and floriculture are only possible in fertile soils and where there are better conditions for marketing: the Elbe valley near Dresden, the Saale, Main and Neckar basins, the Altorenan plain and the valley of the Fewer and in general the sheltered valleys of middle and western Germany and, in the northern one, the surroundings of Hamburg and Stade and some part of Brandenburg, are the territories where fruit-growing is more extensive, which however is practiced in all the regions of the state.
Horticulture has its most important offices in Erfurt, in the Vierlande of Hamburg, in the surroundings of Bamberg, Brunswick, Leipzig, Dresden; every slightly large city has a horticultural area around it. Floriculture is also mainly done around major urban centers and on well exposed slopes. Although these branches of agriculture occupy a considerable part of the land, they are not enough for the demands, so we import vegetables from Egypt, fresh vegetables and fruit from Italy, France, Czechoslovakia, dried fruit from Yugoslavia and the United States.
Viticulture is only possible on the sunny slopes of the warmer parts of Germany, especially in the Rhine countries and tributaries (shores of Lake Constance, Moselle, Saar, Nahe, Neckar, Main). It no longer has economic importance in middle and northern Germany, so the northernmost areas where it is still profitable are in the valleys of the Saale near Jena and the Elbe near Meissen. The cultivation of vines occupied (1930) 71,400 ha. (80,400 in 1913); the wine production in the same year was 2,814,000 hl. (1,548,000 in 1913). The importation of wines from the Mediterranean countries and France declined considerably after the war.