The History of England

from Celts through 20th century

Improvements in Agriculture

Category: 18th century

In early 1700′s, British farmers developed ways to improve crop yields. The invention of the seed-drill by Jethro Tull in 1701 became one of the earliest steps in making agriculture more productive. TuU’s device placed seeds in the soil in rows at even intervals, thereby using far less seed and leaving fewer bare spots than the old meth­od of scattering by hand.

New crop management techniques soon followed. For example, rotation of crops from season to season was introduced. Crops that took nutrients from the soil were followed by crops that restored essential ele­ments. This maintained soil fertility even with contin­uous cultivation. The traditional method of letting the land rest for a season between crops was much less productive than rotation of crops. Adding fertilizers to the soil also increased crop productivity.

More available feed alongside with new methods of selecting animals for breeding produced heavier sheep and beef cattle. Enclosures made more grazing land available for livestock. The textile industry’s increasing demand for wool and the growing popula­tion’s need for food in the 1700′s prompted large land­owners to expand both their crops and their flocks of sheep.

Improvements in agriculture leading to increased crop and meat production provided a healthier diet for the growing population. Bread, cheese, peas, tur­nips, and later potatoes were the mainstay of the diet, but meat was often too expensive for most of the na­tion to afford it.

Taking advantage of new technology and reinvest­ment of capital, farmers ran large farms like other businesses. With the invention of machinery to help with planting and harvesting agriculture — like man­ufacturing — began to follow the same path towards increased production and greater profits.

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