Published by AMTEC on 17th Nov 2022

A Brief History of the Seed Drill

Though the seed drill is prominent among farmers today, few know the length of its history. Find out everything there is to know about the history of the seed drill.

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A brief history of the seed drill


The seed drill is one of the most commonplace pieces of machinery used by farmers today, but few know just how long it has been impacting agricultural industries around the world. Though the creation of the seed drill is most often accredited to English agriculturalist Jethro Tull, who created a refined model of the seed drill in the early 18th century, iterations of the seed drill have been used across many cultures for thousands of years.

In this article, we’ll look through the history of the seed drill and its rise to prominence, alongside the impact it has had on farming, and on society as a whole.

When was the seed drill invented?

The seed drill has seen a number of iterations throughout history, the most famous of which being the seed drill invented by a man named Jethro Tull in 1701. Tull’s seed drill, a major turning point in the agricultural revolution of the 18th century, gave some refinement to the previous model, pioneered by Camillo Torello in Italy, in 1566. This iteration marked the first-time seed drills were to be used in Europe.

More primitive versions of the seed drill can be traced back to the Babylonian age, or approximately 1400 B.C, and multi-tube seed drills cast in iron were invented in China 1200 years on.

These early versions of the seed drill, from the invention of the Babylonians through to Jethro Tull’s refined iteration, were small enough to be pulled by a single horse, and the seed drill saw no major developmental changes until the 20th century. At the peak of the industrial revolution, the harnessing of steam and oil power led to the invention of the gasoline tractor by John Froelich in 1892. This, in turn, allowed for the development of larger, more efficient seed drills, which are what most farmers use today.

Who invented the seed drill?

The invention of the modern seed drill is generally attributed to Jethro Tull. Jethro Tull was a farmer, inventor, agriculturalist and writer, and his invention was instrumental in developing agriculture in England as we know it today.

Born into an upper-class family in Berkshire, in 1674, Jethro Tull spent much of his childhood on his family’s farm and agricultural estate. Tull trained to be a lawyer after leaving St. John’s College in Oxford University. After qualifying as a barrister in 1693, Jethro Tull toured Europe, studying the agricultural methods he found in France and Italy, before returning to England to create his perfected model of the seed drill. ​

After marrying Susanna Smith, Tull and his new wife relocated, moving back to the family farm in Berkshire. Tull ceased his work in the legal profession, turning instead to farming and working the land. He perfected his model of the horse-drawn seed drill in 1701, the answer to improving efficiency in sowing season. Prior to Tull’s refined version of the seed drill, English farmers were sowing seeds by hand, either by scattering them on the ground, or by painstakingly placing them in the ground individually.

How did the seed drill impact society?

Jethro Tull’s refined model of the seed drill was a major innovation in agriculture, sparking the agricultural revolution of the 18th century. The seed drill was able to plant seeds into the soil directly, rather than having seeds scattered across the surface, leaving them vulnerable to the elements and to seed predators. Tull’s seed drill was a simple, yet hugely effective innovation, which allows farmers to increase farm productivity and crop yields simply by inserting the seeds straight into the seedbed.

How did the seed drill help farmers?

The seed drill helps farmers in two main ways: saving time and improving yields. Traditionally, farmers would sow seeds by hand, scattering them across tilled soil. Now, seed drills can be drawn by tractors, meaning that farmers can plant far higher volumes of crops in less time. Seed drills also help to improve crop yields, as they bury seeds directly into the seedbed, shielding them from being blown away or being eaten by birds or other predators.

What is seed drilling?

Seed drilling refers to the act of sowing seeds in uniform rows to a uniform soil depth, with the aid of a specialised piece of farming machinery called a seed drill. The seed drill offers farmers a more efficient method of sowing seeds as opposed to hand-sowing. The seed drill also offers higher crop yields by burying seeds in the soil and covering them in one pass, removing any possibility of birds or other seed predators removing the seeds from the seedbed.

What are seed drills?

Seed drills are specialised pieces of farm machinery that can be dragged by a tractor to sow seeds. Seed drills allow seeds to be buried into the seedbed at a uniform depth, in rows, improving crop yields by saving the seeds from predators and from over exposure.

How does the seed drill work?

The seed drill works by positioning seeds into the seedbed, planting them at a specific, uniform depth. It is most typically drawn by tractors nowadays, and ensures an even distribution of crop seeds, while offering the seeds maximum protection from predators and from the elements, helping farmers achieve greater yields.

The seed drill is made of a number of moving parts. First, the plough component cuts through the soil as the drill is pulled forward by a tractor. This leaves behind a furrow, into which the seed hopper component drops individual seeds in a uniform, evenly spaced manner. Then, finally, the harrow component covers the planted seeds with soil, covering them in the seedbed. This prevents the seeds from being eaten by birds, or from drying out through over exposure to sun and wind.


Where can I buy used seed drills?

As one of the nation’s leading suppliers to the agricultural industry, we offer a wide range of seed drills for sale, including popular models such as the Vaderstad Rapid, Horsch Sprinter, Horsch DC Pronto and more. With more than 25 years’ experience, we have the knowledge to help you get the best deal. Our 9-Acre site has hundreds of machines in stock. We’re conveniently located in central England.

Our customer-centric approach is at the core of everything we do, ensuring all the farmers that choose us as their equipment partner save time and money while making the best decisions for their needs. Contact us today by calling 01926 640637, sending an email to [email protected], or by using the form on our website. Discover the ways we can help - you won’t regret it!


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