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Jethro Tull

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Jethro Tull is best known for changing the way crops are farmed, and for his invention of the seed drill—a device that drills the soil and plants seeds at a designated depth conducive to growing. Tull also introduced the concept of planting seeds in uniform rows. While his inventions and theories were not immediately successful, they have revolutionized farming and many methods practiced today are merely minor improvements upon his theories.

Contents

[edit] History

[edit] Birth and Early Life

Tull was born in 1674 in Basildon, England, to father Jethro Tull Sr., a gentry farmer, and mother Dorothy. While little is known about his early childhood, it is known that Tull attended Oxford University at the age of 17. He studied law and was called to the bar by benchers at Gray’s Inn in 1693. His legal career was put on hiatus after suffering poor health.

Tull did eventually pass the bar and became a barrister, but decided to farm with his father before traveling throughout Europe. During his travels he noticed the soil, culture and production of vegetables. He returned to England, married Susannah Smith, and settled at his paternal farm in Oxfordshire in 1699.[1]

Tull and his wife had two children at his father’s farm in Howberry. At the family farm, Tull began experimenting with different methods to improve the farming conditions, using what he had viewed in his travels in Europe. Tull spent a lot of time trying to improve his farm. He noted gardeners planted beans in uniform rows instead of scattering or broadcasting them randomly, as was typical in England, so he advised his servants to proceed with tilling the soil by hand and planting them at specific depths and in rows.

He was unsatisfied with the methods and results of his servants, so he began constructing a drill machine that could be as precise and meticulous as he required. His drill consisted of a rotating cylinder with grooves that would disperse seeds through a funnel into the soil. He attached the device to a harrowing machine so it would plow the soil and then drill the seeds. His machine was complete in 1701 but it wasn’t a success. Tull postponed improving it when he contracted a pulmonary disorder that required he move to the warmer climates of Italy and South France until he was cured. Spending so much time outdoors had inflicted him with an illness that required action.[2]

During his time abroad, Tull studied farming methods that he could use upon his return to his own farm. When he returned to England his health had improved considerably, but the depleting fortune of Prosperous Farm had become a concern. Tull decided it was time to put these methods to practice.[3]

[edit] Invention of the Air Seeder and Horse-hoeing

When Tull returned to Prosperous Farm in 1714 the invention of the successful air seeder and improved method of hoeing would finally take place. He revised his old inventions that had limited success and tackled the poor soil conditions that existed on his farm. It was an expensive project and Tull would not know the effect that it would have in catapulting the Agricultural Revolution.

Tull coined his invention as a drill because he said, “when farmers used to sow their beans and peas into channels or furrows by hand, they called that action drilling."[4]

But Tull’s device could do more than just drill; it could plant three rows of seeds all at once. He also invented a horse-drawn apparatus that hoed weeds, as Tull firmly believed that planting seeds in uniform rows meant that less seeds were wasted by close proximity and that the farmer could easily move up and down the rows, removing weed obstructions that prevented successful growth.

Another method that he used was pulverizing the soil, which he believed allowed nutrients to be better absorbed into the soil and that by doing this, the farmer would not have to rely on manure to nurture the soil.

Tull also invented a plow that would pull blades of grass and roots out of the ground.

Tull’s neighbor became interested in his methods and offered to publish his ideas in a folio. His book, “The New Horse Hoeing Husbandry” was published in 1731 and it went into detail about the machinery and methods Tull employed on his farm. In his folio Tull advised farmers to make ridgelets of land that were three feet (0.9 m) apart and to plant each ridge with two rows of vegetables that were each separated by nine inches (23 cm). Through the spaces between, a horse-drawn hoe could be used to remove obstructing weeds and through the narrow rows, hand-tools would function for the same purpose. The folio garnered a lot of criticism for its unique ideas and was not initially accepted.[5]

[edit] Death

Tull has been dubbed the “Father of British Agriculture.” He spent the majority of his life improving farming methods that would be utilized not only by him, but also by generations of farmers worldwide. His death took place at Prosperous Farm on February 21, 1741, and he was buried in his hometown of Basildon on March 9, 1741. Although he did not live long enough to see the fruits of his success, Tull’s contribution lives on through his methods and inventions.[6]

[edit] References

  1. Jethro Tull (1674-1741). David Nash Ford's Royal Berkshire History, 2008-09-29.
  2. Jethro Tull (1674-1741). BBC.com, 2008-09-29.
  3. Wright, John. British Farmer’s Magazine. Haymarket: London, 1951.
  4. Jethro Tull (1674-1741). David Nash Ford's Royal Berkshire History, 2008-09-29.
  5. Wright, John. British Farmer’s Magazine. Haymarket: London, 1951.
  6. Jethro Tull (1674-1741). David Nash Ford's Royal Berkshire History, 2008-09-29.

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