The following passages, from a work known, by reputation at least, by almost every schoolboy, are reproduced in the hope of reducing their writer to his true stature; for Tull (1674–1740), an unimportant figure in the history of British agriculture, does not merit the extraordinary fame that has been foisted on him by earlier agricultural historians from Cobbett onwards. His seed-drill, for example, was only one of many devised during the eighteenth century, none of which, before the 1780s, were satisfactory machines. Insisting that manures were expensive and unnecessary, Tull believed in the virtues of ‘tillage’, i.e. ploughing and hoeing. (His hoe appears to have had much in common with the plough, since it penetrated much deeper into the soil than the modern hoe, and was designed to agitate the soil around the roots of the crop.) A wheatfield sown according to Tull’s principle must have presented an odd appearance, since he sowed only two to four rows of seeds, each seven to twelve inches apart, to a ‘ridge’ of soil: there were intervals of two and a half to five feet between each of these ridges. This technique of ridges, wide drilling, and hoeing was the basis of Tull’s husbandry, and he asserted that with adequate tillage and hoeing, but without manures, it would be possible to repeat the same crop indefinitely. Horse Hoeing Husbandry was first published in 1731, and ran through several editions in the 1730s.
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