The intensification of agriculture as farming communities grew in size did not always produce a successful and sustainable economic base. At Ras an-Numayra on the Dead Sea Plain, a small farming community of the late fourth millennium BC developed a specialised plant economy dependent on cereals, grapes and flax. Irrigation in this arid environment led to increased soil salinity while recurrent cultivation of flax may have introduced the fungal pathogen responsible for flax wilt. Faced with declining yields, the farmers may have further intensified their irrigation and cultivation schedules, only to exacerbate the underlying problems. Thus specialised crop production increased both agricultural risk and vulnerability to catastrophe, and Ras an-Numayra, unlike other sites in the region, was abandoned after a relatively short occupation.