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10 steps to better ploughing this spring

As conditions improve, Derek Casey has some tips for optimal plough set-up as the planting season commences

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Tyre pressure - Good ploughing starts with the tractor

Tyre pressure - Good ploughing starts with the tractor

Tyre pressure - Good ploughing starts with the tractor

Good ploughing starts with the tractor. Tyre pressures shouldn't be too high as this can cause wheel slip. For better performance, tyre experts Michelin recommend reducing rear pressures to around 22psi and front pressures to around 18psi.

1 Tyre pressure

Good ploughing starts with the tractor. Tyre pressures shouldn’t be too high as this can cause wheel slip. For better performance, tyre experts Michelin recommend reducing rear pressures to around 22psi and front pressures to around 18psi.

2 Lower linkages

Measure the tractor’s lower linkages. Are they both the same length? This is crucial for even ploughing and to avoid excess stress on any given side.

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3 Stabilisers

It is a similar case for the tractor’s lift arm stabilisers; they should always have a little play to work with as if they are too tight the plough will not be able to ebb and flow with the lay of the land, allowing the plough to bully the tractor.

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4 Top link

Arguably one of the most important settings for effective ploughing. Stand back and look at the angle of the top link. Project an imaginary line coming off the top link angle; if the angle is correct, the line should meet the tractor’s front axle at the hub. This will ensure best tractive performance.

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5 Headstock adjustment

A tractor requires a balanced load to pull in a straight line. Small ploughs have a similar width to the tractor so provide a balanced load. Modern ploughs, with more furrows and greater furrow width, have a wider working width than the tractor. If the tractor wheel is in the furrow the load will be offset to the tractor. The driver may find he has to steer one way to fight the steering force generated by the plough. Adjusting this device shifts the headstock sideways to counteract the offset load of large mounted ploughs, reducing power requirement and wheel slip.

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6 Reset pressures

Wearing parts on a plough need to be checked before starting. Points are expected to be good for on average 350-400 acres. On modern ploughs each plough leg uses a hydraulic reset protection mechanism which kicks in when large stones are met, for example. The pressure of the reset can be adjusted according to the ground type.

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7 Turnover angle

The turnover angle on a reversible should be as close to 90 degrees as you can get it. The upper part of the plough should form a 90 degree angle with the ground, or as close to 90 degrees as you can set it.

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8 Skimmers

Skimmers are one of the most critical parts of a plough. They should scrape all surface residue and place it in the bottom of the open furrow. If the skimmer is too shallow, surface residue will be left on the surface. If the skimmer is too deep, there will be too much material in the furrow bottom, and the furrow slice will not be fully inverted. The skimmers are best adjusted to work to about 30pc of the plough depth. This is easily done, with some ploughs now using pins to adjust so no tools are required.

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9 Spools and hydraulics

To avoid costly repairs be sure to check there is adequate length on the hydraulic hoses. Too short and they will come under pressure, while too long and they can snag on the headstock or on the ground during transport.

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10 Greasing

Keep an eye on the pivot points and hydraulic kick back legs to ensure their grease points get ample grease every couple of days during times of heavy use.

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