Tips for Tractor Maintenance and Farm Safety

Learn how to choose the right tractor implements, keep the machinery running smoothly and stay safe while plowing.


| January/February 1986



Figure 1

A two-bottom plow works best in heavy clay or rocky soil because it means less work for the tractor engine.


MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

Previously, we took a long look at farm tractors for the small landowner — at how they work, what they can do, and how to select the right one for your needs. Now it's time to think about how you'll use your machine, how you'll keep it in good running condition and keep yourself in safe condition, as well. We'll start by considering some of the implements and attachments that you're most likely to need.

Tractor Implements

And you will need some implements, because a tractor by itself is not particularly useful. A plot of land with a bare tractor is analogous to a kitchen with a well-stocked pantry but no pots, pans, or utensils. Fortunately, though, the tractor itself is the most expensive and complicated component in the system, and if you've chosen a tractor — new or used — that's common in your area, you shouldn't have any trouble finding the right accompaniments for it. Here, without further ado, are some of the tractor implements most likely to appear on your wish list.

Plows are described in terms of the number of furrows they leave in the soil with each pass. A plow with a single cutting blade is a one-bottom plow, one with a pair of them is a two-bottom plow, and so on. The monstrous wheat-field tractors used in the wide open spaces of the Midwest can pull a 10-bottom plow without straining — but a small — farm machine, probably in the 30-horsepower range, is intended for use with a two- or possibly a three-bottom model. In heavy clay or rocky soil, the two bottom is a better bet, since it means less work for the engine.

There are many subtleties to plows and plowing, however, and I urge you to seek some advice from your neighbors, or perhaps from the county agricultural agent, before buying one. These individuals probably know more about local conditions than you do, and can help you make an informed choice. You can expect to spend around $150 for a used two-bottom plow in good condition (new ones range from $350 to $800). And if you're using a midsize tractor like I suggested, be sure to get a plow to fit a Category 1 three-point hitch. (Category 2 implements, by contrast, are for large tractors, while Category 0 implements fit compact or lawn-and-garden machines.)

Disk Harrows 101

Disc harrows are used to eliminate the lumps and clods left in the field after plowing. A tandem type is probably what you'll want. These consist of four separate gangs of discs — two in the front and two in the rear. The positions of the gangs can be adjusted relative to one another. In the closed position, the discs will slice deeply into the soil without displacing it very much. Switching them to the open position after going over the field with them closed allows the discs to chop up the previously loosened soil, leaving a relatively fine seedbed.

Don't buy a bigger set of disc harrows than your tractor can handle. For a 25- to 30-horsepower machine, an 8-foot wide tandem harrow is the practical maximum. Most harrows in that size range will be fitted with 18-inch discs, either plain or notched. The notched ones are somewhat more efficient at chopping up sod or stubble, but are more easily damaged when run up against a big stone. A replacement disc of either style costs $8 or $9.

j._2
6/25/2007 4:01:43 PM

looking for replacement disc's for harrow. 11 inches acrosss with 1 inch diameter center. Thank you very much. John T






mother earth news fair

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Feb. 17-18, 2018
Belton, Texas

More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, hands-on workshops, and great food!

LEARN MORE