Quick history of tools to till the soil

October 9, 2015

If you live near farmland, you may think that the tilling tools and machinery you see are all modern inventions. Nothing could be further from the truth. This quick history explains the fascinating origin of these pieces of equipment.

Quick history of tools to till the soil

Farming basics

It stands to reason that farming began where wild wheat and barley grew abundantly — the Zagros mountains of Iraq, the Taurus ranges of Turkey and the valleys of Jordan.

About 12,000 years ago, farmers learned to till the soil with simple hoes made of hooked branches of wood, their points hardened in the fire.

Sowing seeds

In the fertile plains of Mesopotamia, cereal crops brought prosperity through an early form of mass production. Instead of just supporting those who tilled it, the land could feed many.
At Sumer, in the southern part of the region, farmers developed a seed drill for planting seed in rows — thousands of years before the birth of Jethro Tull, the English agriculturist credited with inventing it in 1701.

The Sumerian device made a groove in the soil, the seed trickling into it through a funnel and tube.

The plough

After inventing the plough, probably during the fourth millennium BC, the Sumerians were able to break up and sow vast new areas.
These first "scratch ploughs" consisted of a heavy stick, dragged by one person and guided through the soil by another, to scrape a shallow furrow.
By 3000 BC, a more efficient plough had been devised that could be pulled by two oxen. But heavier, damp soils required more powerful ploughs. These were in use in China around 200 BC, but only appeared in north-eastern Europe in the sixth century AD.
They had three working parts: the coulter, which cut vertically into the ground; the ploughshare, which cut horizontally through the ground at grassroots level; and the moldboard behind the two blades, turning the sods neatly over. Pulled by a team of oxen, they enabled farmers to clear virgin land.

As a result, food production and populations both increased sharply.

Quick history of tilling tools

The modern technology you see on farms in fact goes back thousands of years when people started farming. Keep this in mind next time you’re travelling through the Prairies or buying produce from a Farmer’s Market. All the basic facts are in this quick and interesting history.

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