1700 The weather improved producing the first good harvest for seven years. The amount of enclosed land accelerated.
1701 Jethro Tull developed the seed drill and the horse-drawn hoe.
1721 Broccoli was introduced into England as a crop for the first time.
1730 The weather brought very good harvests for the newt ten years. Charles Townsend introduced Four Year Crop Rotation from Holland.
1731 Tull published his book "Horse Hoeing Husbandry" (Revised in 1733).
1755 Robert Bakewell produced Leicester sheep by selective breeding methods.
1760 Agriculture was revolutionized by enclosures and new innovations.
1766 The chemist, Henry Cavendish, experimented with electric charges to turn nitrogen gas into nitrate salts. His experiments had great significance for the future production of artificial fertilizer.
1769 Bakewell produced Longhorn cattle by selective breeding.
1770 Potatoes were grown for sale for the first time in England.
1772 Thomas Coke began his selective breeding experiments
1780 By this time the better agricultural methods used in England had taken effect. Most of the rest of Europe was still medieval in its farming techniques.
1782 Tull's seed drill was improved by adding gears to the rotary mechanism.
1783 The first plough making factory in England was opened.
1784 Small developed an iron plough
1786 Scottish agricultural engineer, Andrew Meikle, developed a threshing machine. The grain was rubbed between a metal drum and a concave metal sheet.
British Agricultural Revolution The British agricultural revolution is the name ascribed to a series of developments in agricultural practices in Britain over the course of the 18th century.
In England, the agricultural revolution followed directly from seven years of poor harvests, with farmers being particularly keen to capitalize on whatever they could reap. In Scotland the issues were somewhat different, and the enforced improvements resulted in a massive change to both the landscape and the population, culminating in the so-called Lowland Clearances.
At its most basic, the agricultural revolution consisted of four key changes in practice:
Prior to the 18th century, agriculture was much the same across Europe, and had been since before the Middle Ages. The system in operation was essentially post-feudal, with each villager subsistence farming their own strips of land in one of three large open fields.
From as early as the 12th century, some open fields in Britain were being enclosed into individually owned fields, with the process taking off rapidly in the 15th and 16th centuries as sheep farming grew more profitable. This led to villagers losing their land and grazing rights, and left many unemployed. In the 16th and 17thcenturies, the practice of enclosure was denounced by the Church, and legislation was drawn up against it, but the developments in agriculture during the 18th century required large, enclosed fields in order to be workable. This led to a series of government acts, culminating finally in the General Enclosure Act of 1801.
While the villagers received compensation for their strips, it was minimal, and the loss of rights for the rural populous led to an increased dependency on the Poor law. Only a few found work in the (increasingly mechanized) enclosed farms. Most were forced to relocate to the cities and find work in the emerging factories, opening the way for the Industrial Revolution.
By the end of the 19th century the process of enclosure was largely complete.
Jethro Tull made the first advancements in agricultural technology with his seed drill (1701) - a mechanical seeder which distributed seeds efficiently across a plot of land.
Joseph Foljambe's Rotherham plough (1730), while not the first ironplough, was the first iron plough to have any commercial success, combining a number of technological innovations in its design, and being lighter than traditional ploughs. It remained in use in Britain until the development of the tractor.
Andrew Meikle's threshing machine of 1786 was the final straw for many farm labourers, and led to the 1830 agricultural rebellion of Captain Swing (a mythical character comparable to the Luddite's Ned Ludd).
Increasing mechanization improved farming efficiency and reduced costs, not least by making many workers redundant.
Four Field Crop Rotation
During the Middle Ages, the open field system had employed a three year crop rotation, with a different crop in each of the three fields - e.g. wheat and barley in two, with the third fallow.
Following the Black Death, depopulation made possible a shift in diet away from cereals towards meat and other animal products. Correspondingly, in many locales, legumes such as peas and beans, which made excellent livestock fodder, replaced barley as the spring crop in the three-field crop rotation. Also, some crop fields were retired towards permanent pasture. Over the following two centuries, the regular planting of legumes slowly increased the fertility of croplands, and when the pastures were brought back into crop production after their long fallow, their fertility was much greater than they had been in medieval times.
The Dutch discovered a still more effective four-field rotation system, introducing turnips and clover to replace the fallow year. Clover was both an ideal fodder crop, and it improved grain yields in the following year, simultaneously increasing cereal and livestock production. The-four field system was introduced to Britain from Holland in 1730 by Viscount Charles "Turnip" Townshend.
In England, Robert Bakewell and Thomas Coke introduced selective breeding (mating together two animals with particularly desirable characteristics), and inbreeding