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Tull, Jethro

improved horse soil seed

(1674–1741) English agriculturist and engineer: his inventions began the mechanization of crop production.

Tull, educated at Oxford and a qualified barrister, gave up law for a healthier life as a country farmer. Agriculture at the time had no tradition of systematic experimentation or of mechanization, but the Enclosure Acts (which made larger plots available) and new scientific attitudes encouraged change. Cereal and root crops were still sown broadcast and weeding was difficult. Tull had visited French vineyards and concluded that breaking the soil between rows of vines to clear weed, aerate and allow access of water was important. To apply his ideas to cereal and root crops he invented the seed drill. This device, drawn by one horse, had three cutters that made parallel slots in the soil: behind the cutters, hoppers dropped seed into the grooves and a harrow covered the sown seeds with soil. With the seed-drill three operations became one. Tull followed this with an improved horse-drawn hoe to operate between the rows; and went on to design improved ‘plows’ for both light and heavy soils. All were described in his book The New Horse-Houghing Husbandry (1733); his methods were only slowly adopted in Europe, but more quickly in North America. Thanks to Tull’s careful experimentation, crop yields were eventually improved and food supplies were generally adequate to meet the needs of the rapid population growth after 1790.

Tupper, Earl Silas - Overview, Personal Life, Career Details, Chronology: Earl Silas Tupper, Social and Economic Impact [next] [back] Tuchman, Barbara (1912–1989) - World History

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