Jethro Tull made the Greatest Contribution to Agricultural Change in the Eighteenth Century

Jethro Tull did contribute to the agricultural changes in the eighteenth century but I don’t think he made the greatest contribution because there were other improvers for example Robert Bakewell, Lord Townshend and Thomas Coke.

Jethro Tull was born in 1674 and died in 1741. During this time he invented the seed drill and the horse hoe.

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Tull worried when he was on his father’s farm that too many seeds were being wasted by the method of broadcasting. He suggested that the farm workers shout try planting the seeds in rows instead of scattering them everywhere but because of religious reasons the labourers were not encouraged to do so. Tull invented the seed drill. This was a machine that sowed seeds in a line and covered them up as it went. This was horse drawn and it wasted less seeds. How it worked was, the seed fell into the seed boxes, which were underneath the hopper. Then the seeds fell into the sheats. These released seed into the trunks at the back of the funnels. The iron share at the bottom of the harrow formed the channel into which the seed fell.

He travelled around the continent, visiting European countries and looking at their methods of farming. He watched workers hoeing in the French Vineyards. He saw how their hoeing let air to the roots of the vines and disposed of the weeds. There were more grapes, as they didn’t have to fight for their sunlight and water.

Hand hoeing was tiring and a difficult job, it was done mainly by women. In 1714 first of all Tull broke up his land into long plots, which were each two metres and had a space between them this made it easier for women to clear the weeds by hand hoeing. Then he had an idea to put a hoe onto a wooden frame so that it could be horse drawn. This looked a lot like a plough but it uprooted weeds and grass then left them on the surface of the soil do dry out. This was the horse hoe.

This idea was used much later on but during this time his inventions were not greatly successful. The disadvantages of Tull’s inventions were that they were made out of wood and would have continuously broken and some people didn’t own hoses. However, this was probably easier than hand hoeing and walking up and down fields scattering and wasting seeds so his inventions were useful to those who used them. A lot of people would criticise him so a lot of people wouldn’t use of listen to his ideas. So I don’t think he made the greatest contribution to change.

Lord Townshend was born in 1674 and died in 1738. During this time he invented the four-course crop rotation, the affects of this made a great contribution to the change in agriculture in the eighteenth century.

Townshend was nicknamed “Turnip Townshend” because he introduced turnips and clover into the original crop rotation. He improved the three-field crop rotation which consisted of three fields, one field contained Wheat another field contained barley and the other field was left fallow. Each year this was rotated. Townshend introduced the four-course crop rotation, this consisted of four fields, one field contained wheat, another field contained barley, another field contained turnips and another contained clover.

Animals were fed on the turnips and clover this meant they didn’t have to be slaughtered in the winter. The animals also became bigger which meant there was more meat to sell. When there was more to sell of a product the prices went down which meant a wider range of people were able to buy the meat.

Drainage wasn’t very good so Townshend improved this by drainage, manuring and marling which was the mixing of clay below the soil with the chalky soil above it. This was a good idea for the farmers who farmed on that type of soil.

This was quite a good contribution as he gave people the idea of getting rid of fallow. He also stopped the slaughtering of animals in the winter by feeding them the turnips and clover this meant the animals were fatter and there was more meat to sell and therefore more money was made. His improvements links with the improvements of Robert Bakewell who cross bred animals. However, Townshend may have had trouble getting people to know about his improvements because serious farming advertising didn’t start until thirty-three years after his death. A lot of people didn’t like change either so may have been against the four-course crop rotation and the new drainage system.

Robert Bakewell was born in 1725 and died in 1795 during this time he made quite a dramatic change to agriculture by using cross breeding in pastoral farming.

Bakewell discovered that by crossing an old Leicester sheep, which was thin and had hardly any meat with a Lincoln sheep, which were bred for their wool he produced the new Leicester sheep that had a lot of meat on it and could be described as “coalheaver’s mutton”. This is because it was fatty and therefore it gave a lot of energy to whoever ate its meat and coalheavers needed a lot of energy. Also the new Leicester could produce good quality wool also which would help to make cotton and therefore more money. To cross breed his animals he had to enclose them instead of letting them loose on common land. So one of his changes was to enclose animals instead of having open field farming. He also housed his animals and therefore less would have died from weather conditions and therefore there was more meat to sell and more money made.

Bakewell also tried cross breeding longhorn cattle but this was unsuccessful until he produced the short horn cattle, which became good for excellent milk production. By the end of the eighteenth century three quarters of the country were short horn cattle. This proved that his idea was spread and that farmers could make a lot of money from their milk production.

Also instead of using oxen for ploughing Bakewell bred a strong successful farm horse to do the work, which was probably faster and easier.

Bakewell achieved quite a lot in the eighteenth century and contributed a lot to the change in agricultural farming because farmers still cross breed today and most of the cattle today are short horn cattle. This shows that his improvements were long term and therefore affected farming considerably. Also his ideas travelled around fast because his breeding of the short horn cattle was copied so much that within fifty years three quarters of cattle in England were short horn.

Thomas coke was born in 1754 and died in 1842 during this time he encouraged his tenants to give and try new ideas and he started and annual sheep shearing festival.

Thomas Coke rented his farm to tenant farmers who he encouraged to give and try new ideas. He gave them long leases of twenty-one years instead of short leases that were usually given. His tenants did try out new ideas and were successful. Coke tried Townshend’s ideas of the four-course crop rotation and as Coke’s farmland was in Norfolk he had the right type of soil for Townshend’s ideas of marling.

Coke started up and annual sheep shearing festival, which was mainly for his tenants but more farmers were interested in his farming ideas and came to look around his farm. The annual sheep shearing festival, which took place over a period of four days had up to 7 000 people over Britain and even from the continent come to the festival. Different types of animals were on exhibit and his festivals were the beginning of our agricultural shows today. His festival was successful because people used his ideas that he had taken from Townshend, which made them more money.

Coke’s farm was on a sandy and marshy area so to prevent the sand blowing over his farm, and causing soil erosion he had the idea of growing trees to prevent the sand from blowing onto his farm. This meant he had good soil for better crops and therefore he sold more and made more money.

Coke’s contribution to farming was that he gave other farmers ideas; he gave them different methods of farming which they saw when they attended his festival. By giving his tenants longer leases he encouraged them to use new ideas, which made them more money and he was able to raise the price of his rent and therefore he made more money for himself. His agricultural shows were long term as we still have them today.

I don’t agree with the statement. Jethro Tull’s ideas were not hugely used until after the eighteenth century and therefore he didn’t make the greatest contribution. I think Townshend made the greatest contribution because without his ideas like the four-course crop rotation Coke wouldn’t have been as successful as he was because he wouldn’t have been able to feed his animals in Winter and he wouldn’t have had excellent soil because he wouldn’t have known about marling.

However he did have the idea of growing trees to prevent soil erosion. Bakewell also made a big difference to pastoral farming by helping farmers make more money by producing better meat and milk but without Townshend’s ideas of the four-course crop rotation which produced turnips and clover for the animals to eat in winter the animals would still have been killed in Autumn and Winter and therefore it would have been difficult for Bakewell to cross breed them. That’s why I don’t agree with the statement that Jethro Tull made the greatest contribution to agricultural change in the eighteenth century.

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