Follow-up Comment #1, bug #13558 (project freeciv):
This bug (whether you want to call it that) is still present, but I can
explain what's going on:
Autosettler observes that grassland (2/0/0) may be Mined into a forest
(1/2/0) for a net improvement of 1 output (autosettler values food just
slightly more than shields, but two shields at the cost of one food is still
seen as worthwhile). However, if a water source is also available (and you're
not a Despot!), autosettler observes that grassland can be Irrigated up to
3/0/0, which is even better and takes less time, to boot. The problem arises
when either a water source is not immediately available, in which case
autosettler doesn't even consider irrigating the tile, or when your government
doesn't actually benefit from the irrigation due to the -1 penalty for outputs
over 3, in which case irrigating just doesn't seem to help.
A fix for the later case is straightforward: Pretend you don't have the
output penalty when reasoning about the tile because you probably won't have
it for long. A bit annoying to code up, but doable.
The former is a bit more troubling, though, because autosettler currently
only connects irrigation to tiles via "emergent behavior". In short,
Irrigating a different tile usually looks better than Mining waterless
grassland into a forest, so autosettler does that first. Afterwards, the
grassland might have access to water, or if it still doesn't, a tile next to
it might, and so forth. If, on the other hand, the only connectable water to
the grassland would require irrigation outside of all cities' limits,
autosettler doesn't realize a connection is possible (or might become possible
at a later date).
To solve this problem, it might make sense to more heavily penalize
autosettler for modifying terrain such that it leads to a drop in food or
shields, as a loss in either of these can be disastrous for a city.
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