Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Technology Cycles - The Plow

I have been working on the Rau Model Plow Collection for over a year and rather intensely for the last few days. The collection traces the development of the plow from antiquity to about 1875. The early plows were essentially pointed wooden sticks that created a furrow in the soil. This worked well in the Nile delta where flooding routinely brought in fertile soil. And this worked well in the arid irrigated regions as well. However, in the higher rainfall regions this approach did not work as well and thus the plow became more sophisticated to be able to tear through grasses and sod. So this brings me to reflect on what I saw the last few days as I drove to campus. The cornfields that I passed on Rte 13 were being planted using a limited tillage approach. No plowing to turn the soil over. Simply a pointed tine ripping up the soil and creating a seedbed for the corn. There we are - back to the approach used by the Egyptians about 5000 years ago. What goes around comes around. Amazing!

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