In another article in this series, we sang the praises of the modern tractor and how it has come to define the farm as we know it today. While the tractor is inextricably linked to the image of the farm both now and in the future, there is an instrument (which in some cases has been turned into a machine) which has been at the heart of farming since long before the Great Pyramids even existed. That instrument is the plough.

The plough has always been used on farms to turn over the soil on the farm before the seeds for the crop the farm grows are planted. The homes, which still include farmland will often have a plough located in the barn or other storage area on the land. The initial ploughing does several things which are of benefit to the crop.

First of all, of course, ploughing makes the ground easier to plant. This work must be done whether a farmer relies on a mechanically powered sowing machine or the use of foreign workers. Canada has different soil conditions than are found in other countries in the world, therefore the type of plough employed is different from one location to the next.

Ploughs do much more than just break up the ground. They also save farmers a lot of back breaking labour by turning weeds back into the ground, as well as leftover plant parts from the last crop. This allows the turned over plants to break down faster in the ground. The next years' ploughing will bring the nutrients created by this process back to the surface, more accessible to the seeds of the new crop.

The first mechanical ploughs used in North America were powered by steam engines and arrived on the farming scene in 1850. These ploughs included seats that resembled what you might find on today's farms and other farms on this continent could take advantage of this technology, but many European countries could not. The softer soil in Europe made it impossible to use the same kind of traction engines as in North America, so the mechanized plough had to be adapted for that continent.

While mechanical ploughs are still in use in some places today, the tractor has rendered them largely obsolete. Tractors include hitches that allow a plough to be hooked up to it, so that an independently operated mechanical plough does not need to be used to till the fields prior to planting. The tractor is so versatile that it is largely futile for a farmer to purchase a mechanical plough on its own.

While the farmland which used to rely on ploughs, stands today, these machines are still an important part of our history. They remain a rare sight in the industrial vehicle family, although you can still find mechanical ploughs in museums and even at work on certain farms. Sometimes when using heavy equipment such as ploughs or tractors, temporary road mats and rig mats are necessary to keep the equipment mobile and not stuck in the mud.

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Friday, June 25, 2021