The new husbandry was characterized by the variety of its crops as well as by their succession on the same ground. Among the new plants, some were said to have made the fortune of English agriculture. Others, although they were not new, needed rehabilitation and encouragement. The success of English farming, owing to the new crops, provoked a long and impassioned discussion. Agreement was reached on certain kinds of plants, interest in which had become so evident that they were no longer a subject of controversy. Against others, opposition was still violent at the end of the century, and sometimes the new plant could not overcome general indifference or prejudice. However, plants which were later to bring about profound changes in the order of cultivation— those which the peasant was to find it most profitable to cultivate—those in a word, which are advocated by the modern agriculture, made very noticeable progress.
In its first phase, the new husbandry was ‘tout entière placée sous le signe des fourrages’. Duhamel, like Tull, speaks of two kinds of fodder; one is ‘raves ou rabes et gros navets’—roots; the other, herbaceous and perennial plants, like sainfoin and clover. These two types of fodder had their partisans and their opponents and it took nearly half a century before their advantages were generally conceded.
In 1750 roots were not absolutely unknown. In fact we find good descriptions of them in the old authors, but their use was very limited. Roots and turnips had their place in kitchen gardens and were mostly considered as vegetables and not as fodder. In 1750 their cultivation, although locally restricted, was no doubt common enough for Duhamel to write about it, ‘suivant l'usage ordinaire’.
He naturally contrasts it with the new husbandry, where the drill and the horse-hoe play an important part, in the chapter entitled ‘Culture des navets suivant la nouvelle méthode’. This was, in fact, the first important study about this crop to be published in France.
The Encyclopédie is rather vague on the subject. It points out, however, the importance of the new English fodder and its connection with sheep folding. The Journal Oeconomique continues to advocate the new ideas, in detailed and precise articles. Valmont de Bomare, a staunch advocate of English methods, also praises the new root and reiterates the established theory.