Since the dawn of the agricultural age, humans have been ploughing their fields. The first plough was made of wood and, pulled by hand, carved up a narrow strip of soil at one pass. Later, mouldboard ploughs, first pulled by beasts and then by tractors, would plough a wider strip of earth, but only one or two furrows at a time. Modern farmers use the disc plough, also called a disc harrow, to turn more ground in a single, more efficient pass of the tractor.
The plough frame is the foundation for performance of the plough. It must be strong enough to support the weight of all the discs and other parts but lightweight enough to allow efficient pulling. The hub supports are part of the frame and are set at a pitch and angle that allow maximum penetration of the soil by the discs.
The plough assembly must be flexible to meet modern demands in the field. The hitch is an important component of disc performance. The plough pivots at the hitch for a smooth turn and is set in a spring-loaded assembly for shock absorption. The modern hitch helps control weight transfer with a levelling control system and helps control sideways sliding of the plough. Hitches ideally can be shifted front or back to minimise over-biting of the front discs.
The disc blades are the actual cutting parts of the plough. They are made of heat-treated heavy-duty cast steel and come in a round or notched design. The notched blade is designed to create a more efficient cutting edge, particularly for ploughing sod. The blades range in diameter from 16 inches to 36 inches in diameter and come with either round or square holes for attaching to the hubs.
The gauge or furrow wheel rests on axles at the sides of the plough and is designed to ensure a constant depth of penetration by the discs on uneven ground, which frees the operator from constant depth monitoring. To create side-to-side stability in the plough, it cuts at an opposing angle from the main disc blades.
There are several parts required to connect the frame, discs, hubs and gauge wheel. These include cast spools, end washers, bumper washers, axle nut locks, space tubes and slack washers.
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