In agriculture, a set of harrows is an implement for cultivating the surface of the soil. In this way it is distinct in its effect from the plough, which is used for deeper cultivation. Harrowing is often carried out on fields after the ploughing operations which leaves a rough surface which is unsuitable for seeding for most crops. The purpose of this harrowing is generally to break up clods and lumps of soil and to provide a finer finish, a good tilth or soil structure that is suitable for seeding and planting operations. Such coarser harrowing may also be used to remove weeds and to cover seed after sowing.
Tools for harrowing are commonly called harrows (plural) as they are used as a set. Harrows may be of several types and weights, depending on the intended purpose. They almost always consist of a rigid frame to which are attached discs, teeth, linked chains or other means of cultivation, but tine and chain harrows are often only supported by a rigid towing-bar at the front of the set.
All three harrow types can be used in one pass to prepare the soil for seeding. It is also common to used a combination of two harrows for a variety of tilling processes. Where harrowing provides a very fine tilth, or the soil is very light so that it might easily be wind-blown, a roller is often added as the last of the set.
In the southern hemisphere the so-called giant discs are a specialised kind of disc harrows that can stand in for a plough in very rough country where a mouldboard plough will not handle the tree-stumps and rocks, and a disc-plough is too slow (because of its limited number of discs). Giant discs are scalloped-edged discs operated in a set, or frame, that is often weighted with concrete or steel blocks to improve penetration of the cutting edges. This sort of cultivation is normally immediately followed by broadcast fertilisation and seeding, rather than drilled or row seeding.
Chain harrows are often used for lighter work such as levelling the tilth or covering seed,Chain harrowing may be used on pasture land to spread out dung, and to break up dead material (thatch) in the sward, and similarly in sports-ground maintenance a light chain harrowing is often used to level off the ground after heavy use, to remove and smooth out boot marks and indentations. When used on tilled land in combination with the other two types, chain harrowing rolls the remaining larger clumps of soil to the surface where the weather will break them down and prevent interference with seed germination.
- Main article: Disc harrow
Disc harrows are typically used for heavy work, such as following ploughing to break up the sods. In addition, there are various types of power harrow, in which the cultivators are power-driven from the tractor rather than depending on its forward motion.
A drag is an early type of heavy harrow usually used behind draft horses.
These harrows consist of simple frames with tines bolted to them where large frame members cross. There is a variety of harrow sizes and weights from light harrows for final seedbed preparation to heavy harrows used in some areas for breaking down ploughed land.Spike harrows harrows will be found in many farm yards but their use has declined in recent years. Traditionally these harrows were used in sets of four or more, attached to a bar or pole with a wheel at each side, often towed behind a cultivator or roll.
Tine harrows are used to refine seed-bed condition before planting, to remove small weeds in growing crops and to loosen the inter-row soils to allow for water to soak into the subsoil.
In Europe, harrows were first used in the early Middle Ages.
The following text is taken from the Household Cyclopedia of 1881:
"When employed to reduce a strong obdurate soil, not more than two harrows should be yoked together, because they are apt to ride and tumble upon each other, and thus impede the work, and execute it imperfectly. On rough soils, harrows ought to be driven as fast as the horses can walk; because their effect is in the direct proportion to the degree of velocity with which they are driven. In ordinary cases, and in every case where harrowing is meant for covering the seed, three harrows are the best yoke, because they fill up the ground more effectually and leave fewer vacancies, than when a smaller number is employed. The harrowman's attention, at the seed process, should be constantly directed to prevent these implements from riding upon each other, and to keep them clear of every impediment from stones, lumps of earth, or clods, and quickens or grass roots; for any of these prevents the implement from working with perfection, and causes a mark or trail upon the surface, always unpleasing to the eye, and generally detrimental to the vegetation of the seed. Harrowing is usually given in different directions, first in length, then across, and finally in length as at first. Careful husbandmen study, in the finishing part of the process, to have the harrows drawn in a straight line, without suffering the horses to go in a zigzag manner, and are also attentive that the horses enter fairly upon the ridge, without making a curve at the outset. In some instances, an excess of harrowing has been found very prejudicial to the succeeding crop; but it is always necessary to give so much as to break the furrow, and level the surface, otherwise the operation is imperfectly performed."
References / sources
Wikipedia for base article to define common terminology.
- "Degelman Strawmaster Harrows" Tine Harrows
- "Little Harrows" Song parody
- "Martens Harrows" Spike harrows
- "Pepin Harrows" Spike & Coil Tine Harrows
- "May-Bridge Harrows" Chain harrows
- Examples of harrows
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