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Tillage Of The Soil

A good many years ago a man by the name of Jethro Tull lived in England.
He was a farmer and a most successful man in every way. He first taught
the English people and the world the value of thorough tillage of the
soil. Before and during his time farmers did not till the soil very
intelligently. They simply prepared the seed-bed in a careless manner,
as a great many farmers do to-day, and when the crops were gathered the
yields were not large.

Jethro Tull centered attention on the important fact that careful and
thorough tillage increases the available plant food in the soil. He did
not know why his crops were better when the ground was frequently and
thoroughly tilled, but he knew that such tillage did increase his yield.
He explained the fact by saying, "Tillage is manure." We have since
learned the reason for the truth that Tull taught, and, while his
explanation was incorrect, the practice that he was following was
excellent. The stirring of the soil enables the air to circulate through
it freely, and permits a breaking down of the compounds that contain the
elements necessary to plant growth.

You have seen how the air helps to crumble the stone and brick in old
buildings. It does the same with soil if permitted to circulate freely
through it. The agent of the air that chiefly performs this work is
called carbonic acid gas, and this gas is one of the greatest helpers
the farmer has in carrying on his work. We must not forget that in soil
preparation the air is just as important as any of the tools and
implements used in cultivation.


If the soil is fertile and if deep plowing has always been done, good
crops will result, other conditions being favorable. If, however, the
tillage is poor, scanty harvests will always result. For most soils a
two-horse plow is necessary to break up and pulverize the land.

A shallow soil can always be improved by properly deepening it. The
principle of greatest importance in soil-preparation is the gradual
deepening of the soil in order that plant-roots may have more
comfortable homes. If the farmer has been accustomed to plow but four
inches deep, he should adjust the plow so as to turn five inches at the
next plowing, then six, and so on until the seed-bed is nine or ten
inches deep. This gradual deepening will not injure the soil but will
put it quickly in good condition. If to good tillage rotation of crops
be added, the soil will become more fertile with each succeeding year.

The plow, harrow, and roller are all necessary to good tillage and to a
proper preparation of the seed-bed. The soil must be made compact and
clods of all sizes must be crushed. Then the air circulates freely, and
paying crops are the rule and not the exception.

Tillage does these things: it increases the plant-food supply, destroys
weeds, and influences the moisture content of the soil.


1. What tools are used in tillage?

2. How should a poor and shallow soil be treated?

3. Why should a poor and shallow soil be well compacted before
sowing the crop?

4. Explain the value of a circulation of air in the soil.

5. What causes iron to rust?

6. Why is a two-horse turning-plow better than a one-horse plow?

7. Where will clods do the least harm--on top of the soil or below
the surface?

8. Do plant roots penetrate clods?

9. Are earthworms a benefit or an injury to the soil?

10. Name three things that tillage does.

Next: The Moisture Of The Soil

Previous: Origin Of The Soil

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