Who was Turnip Townshend?

No, his name wasn’t really Turnip.  It was Charles, and he was a huge advocate of crop rotation and of course, turnips.  Hence, the nickname.

Lord Charles Townshend wasn’t always in agriculture.  He used to be a British politician from about 1714 up to 1730 right before he resigned over foreign policy disputes he had with his brother-in-law, Robert Walpole.

But his resignation from politics brought an interesting agricultural improvement namely, crop rotation.

For such a long time, it was believed that the only way to keep soil fertile was to let it lie fallow every two to three years.  That means nothing will be planted on the fields in that span of time, which is really a waste.

During those days, crop rotation was relatively new.  The idea was to rotate the planting of four crops – wheat, clover, barley and turnips – every year.  Although some crops such as wheat or corn would wear out the soil, planting it after with clover or turnips would restore the fertility of the land.

But aside from being a crop alternative, turnips real advantage comes from the discovery that it’s a hardy crop that thrives well even in extremely cold climates.  That means animals have something to graze on even during winter.

Although Townshend’s contemporaries describe him a bore because of his overzealous chatter about agriculture, it cannot be denied that his agricultural reforms were greatly helpful.

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