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Plow

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Agricultural Equipment
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For other uses, see Plow (disambiguation).
John Deere 3710 10-Bottom Plow

Plows, also known as ploughs, are farm implements pulled by agricultural tractors. They are comprised of one or more blades that are used to dig grooves known as furrows, and to turn sod and stubble in preparation for sowing seeds. There are many types of plows; among the most common are moldboard plows. Additionally, there are reversible plows, chisel plows, discs, and subsoilers. As the minimal cultivation and direct drilling methods of farming become more prevalent to avoid soil erosion and moisture loss, moldboard plows are being used less now than they have been in the past.[1]

Contents

[edit] History

[edit] Ancient Plows

The first example of the use of plows came about more than 4,000 years ago.[2] These rudimentary versions were derived from hand-held hoes. Eventually, they were pulled by oxen, camels, elephants, and sometimes women. These plows operated in such a way that they pushed soil to either side of the furrow they were creating, rather then inverting it. While the Egyptians used this design for a long period of time, it underwent a major improvement when the Ancient Greeks added wheels to the configuration.[3] Known as crooked plows due to the curvature of the oak beam that curved toward the draft animal, these plows dramatically increased efficiency.

[edit] Early European Plows

The design of plows did not advance considerably until the 1600s when Joseph Foljambe patented a plow called the Rotherham Swing Plow in Europe,[4] named as such because no depth wheel was used. The fittings and coulter on the Rotherham Swing Plow were made of iron, and the moldboard and share were iron plated. Foljambe’s plow, one of the first to be produced on a large scale,[5] remained widely used for over three decades. Following this was John Small’s introduction in 1763 of the Scots Plow, including a cast iron moldboard with an improved, more effective curvature; it was one of the predecessors of the models we are familiar with today.[6]

[edit] The First American Plows

Some of the first plows introduced in the United States, used until the early 1800s, were comprised of nothing more than a stick on which was attached an iron point used to make scratching motions in the ground.[7] Improvements were attempted, yielding implements made of heavy, plow-shaped pieces of wood outfitted with wrought-iron points. These plows, fabricated by blacksmiths without patterns to follow and only by special order, proposal software were suitable only in soft ground with the use of strong oxen or horses. If the ground was hard; however, several men and animals were required to carry out the job.

[edit] Early Patents for American Plows

The inventor of perhaps the first practical American plow was Charles Newbold of Burlington County, New Jersey.[8] His iron plow, patented in 1797, was not trusted by farmers, as it was thought that metal would poison their soil. Ten years later, David Peacock obtained a patent, followed by two others, for his plow design. Newbold sued Peacock for patent infringement and recovered damages. Jethro Wood of Scipio, New York, introduced a useful design in 1814 with his patented cast iron, three-part plow.[9] The benefit of this design was that farmers could replace a broken part without having to purchase an entirely new plow. Wood never gained monetary success as he used all his money in court prosecuting competitors engaging in patent infringement.

John Deere 3100 5-Bottom Plow

[edit] John Deere Plows

As advancements were being made in the plowing world, John Deere entered the market. In 1837, he produced the first self-scouring cast steel plow developed for use on sticky prairie soil in the Midwest.[10] These plows, fabricated from wrought iron and steel shares, could cut through the soil in the Great Plains without clogging. Deere’s plows gained widespread popularity – by 1855, he was selling 10,000 annually.[11] 

[edit] The Sulky Plow

There was no shortage of manufacturers in the mid-19th century eager to enter the plow market. Around this time, plow improvement was taking place thanks to improvements in the manufacture of steel and casting. It was in the midst of this era that the lightweight, horse-drawn sulky plow was introduced,[12] enabling a plowman to ride the plow rather than walk behind it. Though these plows were expensive to operate, requiring at least a three-horse hitch rather than two, it had great benefits. As women and boys were doing farm work and operating the 300-pound (136-kg) moldboard plows during the civil war, riding plows were enormously helpful. Later, successful sulky plows would include the Gilpin model invented by Gilpin Moore and marketed by Deere & Co., and the Moline Plow Co.’s Flying Dutchman.[13]

[edit] Continued Plow Development

In 1868, John Lane obtained a patent for his soft-center steel plow. His implement had a hard, brittle surface, but it was reinforced in the back with softer metal in order to lessen the likelihood of breakage. The same year, James Oliver, a Scottish immigrant based in South Bend, Indiana, developed the Chilled Plow. This plow was developed so that the surfaces that came in contact with soil had a hard, glassy surface that cooled more quickly than its iron body. Oliver later founded the Oliver Chilled Plow Co.

[edit] The Advent of Steam Engines

In 1876, J.I. Case introduced the first steam traction engines, massive machines capable of dragging up to six plow blades across unbroken land.[14] Initially designed to work the wheat fields of the prairies, these machines could haul gang plows that often weighed several tons. With the development of steam traction machinery came the tendency for dealers to offer a line of implements made for horses, and a separate line made for steam engines.

[edit] Gasoline-powered Tractors

Following the steam engine came the gasoline or kerosene-powered tractor. Hart-Parr introduced the first such model in 1902. [15] There were many tractor manufacturers in the market by 1920 so implements had to be redesigned in order to match the new, more powerful tractors, and specific attachments for specific tractors became available. Thus the age of “power farming" began.[16]

[edit] The Three-point Hitch

A major advancement came about when Harry Ferguson introduced the three-point hitch.[17] This hitch, first installed in 1938 on a Fordson tractor, joined tractors to implements in an integrated, efficient way. It allowed farmers to operate the tractor and attached implement as one, from the seat of the tractor. Though this system was not developed exclusively for plows, it significantly benefited their operators.

[edit] Features/How it Works

Modern plows are usually mounted or semi-mounted on an agricultural tractor. Smaller implements, generally comprising up to seven moldboards, are completely mounted, while larger versions, sometimes comprising five to twelve or more moldboards, tend to be semi-mounted, controlled and lifted by hydraulics.[18] While the most commonly known plows are the moldboard type, including reversible plows, there are others such as chisel plows, disc plows, and subsoilers, which do not make use of a moldboard.

[edit] The Plow’s Components

In general, typical moldboard plows include the following parts: the bottom (blade), beam, moldboard, throat, share, heel, frog, coulter and handles. The blade is the working edge of the plow that slices the soil in order to roll it up toward the moldboard. The upper section of the plow’s bottom, known as the moldboard, is designed with a curve that turns the soil, forming a long furrow. Moldboards are made of smooth metal that scours so that sticky soils are able to drop off the blade. The top of the plow is outfitted with a sturdy beam. On one end of the beam is a yoke to which is attached a horse, or more commonly, a tractor, and the other end is attached to the frog, a brace that supports the bottom. The coulter, developed in the early to mid-19th century, is a metal disc mounted ahead of the plow’s point. Its task is to sever roots and cut the soil in order to facilitate the plow’s sliding ease.

[edit] Types

[edit] Reversible

Reversible plows, part of the moldboard plow family, are comprised of two moldboards, one right turning and the other left turning, mounted back-to-back. Only one moldboard is used at a time—while one is in use, the other is carried behind it, off the ground. When the moldboard in use has finished a furrow, the plows are turned over, and the other is put to work on the next furrow. Reversible plows with more than four furrows are generally semi-mounted due to its weight and the effort required to lift its two bodies.

[edit] Chisel

Massey Ferguson MO129 13 High Shank Chisel Plow
Chisel plows are often used in conservation tillage to aerate and loosen the soil, with minimal disruption. Using a curved shank to penetrate the soil without overturning it, these plows disturb the soil’s residue considerably less than plows using a moldboard. Chisel plows can be wheel-mounted pull-hitch types or three-point-hitch-mounted types, and can be outfitted with a variety of points from narrow to wide, and straight to twisted. The widest twisted points provide the most soil residue coverage.

[edit] Disc

Though disc plows cannot replace moldboards for ordinary applications, they are designed to effectively plow extremely hard soils, in addition to sticky soils in which moldboards would not be able to run. These plows, useful in conservation tillage practices, are especially efficient in special tasks such as rapidly breaking up stubbles in a field where a combine has left large amounts of straw. In place of a share, coulter, and moldboard, this plow includes a large concave steel disc that revolves. Modern disc plows can be mounted with hydraulic lift for easy maneuvering and transportation. This revolving disc, normally about 24 inches (61 cm), is set at an angle, turning a furrow slice to the side with a scooping action. It can turn a furrow between approximately 10 to 12 inches (25 to 30 cm) wide.[19] A specialized version of this plow, of Australian origin, is known as a stump-jump disc plow. Stump-jumps can be applied to rough work where land riddled with tree stumps needs to be prepared for reseeding.

[edit] Subsoiling

The purpose of a subsoiling plow is to break up lower layers of soil without overturning and bringing them to the earth’s surface. This method of plowing is useful when there exists a dense layer of soil, known as pan or hardpan, below the soil’s surface. Alternatively, there may be layers of iron pan, formed through chemical action. The tilling of pan is required as it can drastically impede plant growth. Additionally, plowing lower layers of soil can effectively aid in the land’s drainage.

[edit] Common Manufacturers

[edit] Additional Photos

Wil-Rich 2900 12-Bottom Plow
International 700 8-16 Trailing Plow

[edit] References

  1. Inventors. About.com. 2008-09-09.
  2. Plough History. Ploughmen. 2008-09-09.
  3. Plough History. Ploughmen. 2008-09-09.
  4. Plough History. Ploughmen. 2008-09-09.
  5. Plough History. Ploughmen. 2008-09-09.
  6. Plough History. Ploughmen. 2008-09-09.
  7. Inventors. About.com. 2008-09-09.
  8. Inventors. About.com. 2008-09-09.
  9. Inventors. About.com. 2008-09-09.
  10. Inventors. About.com. 2008-09-09.
  11. Inventors. About.com. 2008-09-09.
  12. Halberstadt, April. Plows and Planting Implements. Motorbooks International: 1997.
  13. Halberstadt, April. Plows and Planting Implements. Motorbooks International: 1997.
  14. Halberstadt, April. Plows and Planting Implements. Motorbooks International: 1997.
  15. Halberstadt, April. Plows and Planting Implements. Motorbooks International: 1997.
  16. Halberstadt, April. Plows and Planting Implements. Motorbooks International: 1997.
  17. Halberstadt, April. Plows and Planting Implements. Motorbooks International: 1997.
  18. Culpin, Claude. Farm Machinery. Granada Publishing Limited: 1981.
  19. Culpin, Claude. Farm Machinery. Granada Publishing Limited: 1981.