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.

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