In Europe in the Middle Ages, large fields were often divided into strips, with individuals farming their strip as intensively as possible. Since little was under-stood about the nutrients that plants need and the use of fertilizers, the soil in these strips soon became exhausted, with poorer and poorer yields resulting. The Agricultural Revolution was a change in farming practice that took place gradually during the eighteenth century. The technique of resting ground for a year (leaving it fallow) and rotating crops, so that the same crop was not grown year after year on the same plot, was tested and found to improve harvests. A two-year rotation and later three- and four-year rotations came to be widely practiced.

The Agricultural Revolution was a major event in world history and had a profound effect on populations throughout Europe and other historical events.  For example, many historians consider the Agricultural Revolution to be a major cause of the Industrial Revolution, especially in terms of when and how it began in Britain.  For example, the Industrial Revolution began in Britain in the 18th century due in part to an increase in food production, which was the key outcome of the Agricultural Revolution.  As such, the Agricultural Revolution is considered to have begun in the 17th century and continued throughout the centuries that followed, alongside the Industrial Revolution.

In the centuries before the start of the Agricultural Revolution, European farmers practised a form of farming in which they planted the same crop in the same field every year.  This would cause them to have to not plant anything in the field every few years in order to avoid destroying the quality of the soil.  However, Charles Townshend, a British statesman, identified a way to improve farming practises and thus produce more food.  In the 1730s, he discovered that by growing different types of crops in the fields year after year, British farmers did not have to leave a field for a growing season.  For example, he argued that in one year the farmers should grow a cereal grain such as whet or barley and in a following year they should grow a vegetable crop such as turnips.  By doing so, a farmer could grow food in a field every year without diminishing the ability of the soil.  For his discovery, he became known as ‘Turnip Townshend’.  In general, this allowed British farmers to grow more food, which in turn helped lead to an increase in the population of British citizens.  The increased population was important to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution because it created a large workforce for the factories and mines that would be common during the time.

A key aspect of the Industrial Revolution was the invention of different types of machines, many of which were used in farming and agriculture.  For example, Jethro Tull is famous for his invention of the seed drill which had a profound effect on the Agricultural Revolution and, in turn, the Industrial Revolution.  Tull worked on his father’s farm in England and noticed that some of the traditional farming practices were very inefficient.  For example, he was particularly concerned with how seeds were drilled into the soil by hand, which was very slow and required a lot of labor on the part of farmers. As a result, Tull invented a seed drill with a rotating cylinder to drill the seeds into the soil. This made the planting process much quicker.  As well, the seed drill allowed crops to be planted in straight rows, which allowed the farmers to use less seeds while making weeding of the crops easier and more efficient.