1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Agriculture/Implements and Machinery

Implements and Machinery.

It is the custom of the Royal Agricultural Society of England to invite competitions at its annual shows in specified classes of implements, and an enumeration of these will indicate the character of the appliances which were thus brought into prominence in the latter years of the 19th and the early years of the 20th century. These trials taking place, with few intermissions, year after year serve to direct the public mind to the development, which is continually in progress, of the mechanical aids to agriculture. The awards here summarized are quite distinct from those of silver medals which are given by the society in the case of articles possessing sufficient merit, which are entered as “new implements for agricultural or estate purposes.”

In 1875, at Taunton, special prizes were awarded for one-horse and two-horse mowing-machines, hay-making machines, horse-rakes (self-acting and not self-acting), guards to the drums of threshing-machines, and combined guards and feeders to the drums of threshing-machines. In 1876, at Birmingham, the competitions were of self-delivery reapers, one-horse reapers and combined mowers and reapers without self-delivery. In 1878, at Bristol, the special awards were all for dairy appliances—milk-can for conveying milk long distances, churn for milk, churn for cream, butter-worker for large dairies, butter-worker for small dairies, cheese-tub, curd knife, curd mill, cheese-turning apparatus, automatic means of preventing rising of cream, milk-cooler and cooling vat. A gold medal was awarded for a harvester and self-binder (McCormick’s). In 1879, at Kilburn, the competition was of railway waggons to convey perishable goods long distances at low temperatures. In 1880 at Carlisle, and in 1881 at Derby, the special awards were for broadside steam-diggers and string sheaf-binders respectively. In 1882, at Reading, a gold medal was given for a cream separator for horse power, whilst a prize of 100 guineas offered for the most efficient and most economical method of drying hay or corn crops artificially, either before or after being stacked, was not awarded. In 1883, at York, a prize of £50 was given for a butter dairy suitable for not more than twenty cows. In 1884, at Shrewsbury, a prize of £100 was awarded for a sheaf-binding reaper, and one of £50 for a similar machine. In 1885, at Preston, the competitions were concerned with two-horse, three-horse and four-horse whipple-trees, and packages for conveying fresh butter by rail. In 1886, at Norwich, a prize of £25 was awarded for a thatch-making machine. In 1887, at Newcastle-on-Tyne, a prize of £200 went to a compound portable agricultural engine, one of £100 to a simple portable agricultural engine, and lesser prizes to a weighing-machine for horses and cattle, a weighing-machine for sheep and pigs, potato-raisers and one-man-power cream separators. In 1888, at Nottingham, hay and straw presses for steam-power, horse-power and handpower were the subjects of competition. In 1889, at Windsor, prizes were awarded for a fruit and vegetable evaporator, a paring and coring machine, a dairy thermometer, parcel post butter-boxes to carry different weights, and a vessel to contain preserved butter. In 1890, at Plymouth, competitions took place of light portable engines (a) using solid fuel, (b) using liquid or gaseous fuel, grist mills for use on a farm, disintegrators, and cider-making plant for use on a farm. In 1891, at Doncaster, special prizes were given for combined portable threshing and finishing machines, and cream separators (hand and power). In 1892, at Warwick, the competitions related to ploughs - single furrow (a) for light land, (b) for strong land, (c) for press drill and broad-cast sowing; two-furrow; three-furrow; digging (a) for light land, (b) for heavy land; and one-way ploughs. In 1893, at Chester, self-binding harvesters and sheep-shearing machines (power) were the appliances respectively in competition. In 1894, at Cambridge, the awards were for fixed and portable oil engines, potato-spraying and tree-spraying machines, sheep-dipping apparatus and churns. In 1895, at Darlington, the competitions were confined to hay-making machines and clover-making machines. In 1896, at Leicester, prizes were awarded after trial to potato-planting machines, potato-raising machines and butter-drying machines. In 1897, at Manchester, special awards were made for fruit baskets and milk-testers. In 1898, at Birmingham, a prize of £100 was given for a self-moving vehicle for light loads, £100 and £50 for self-moving vehicles for heavy loads, and £10 for safety feeder to chaff-cutter, in accordance with the Chaff-cutting Machines (Accidents) Act 1897. In 1899, at Maidstone, special prizes were offered for machines for washing hops with liquid insecticides, cream separators (power and hand), machines for the evaporation of fruit and vegetables, and packages for the carriage of (a) soft fruit, (b) hard fruit. In 1900, at York, the competitions were concerned with horse-power cultivators, self-moving steam diggers, milking machines and sheep-shearing machines (power and hand). In 1901, at Cardiff, competition was invited in portable oil engines, agricultural locomotive oil engines and small ice-making plant suitable for a dairy. In the years 1903 and 1904 petrol motors adapted for ploughing and other agricultural operations formed a prominent feature of the exhibits.

The progress of steam cultivation has not justified the hopes that were once entertained in the United Kingdom concerning this method of working implements in the field. It was about the year 1870 that its advantages first came into prominent notice. At that time, owing to labour disputes, the supply of hands was short and horses were dear. The wet seasons that set in at the end of the ’seventies led to so much hindrance in the work on the land that the aid of steam was further called for, and it seemed probable that there would be a lessened demand for horse power. It was found, however, that the steam work was done with less care than had been bestowed upon the horse tillage, and the result was that steam came to be regarded as an auxiliary to horse labour rather than as a substitute for it. In this capacity it is capable of rendering most valuable assistance, for it can be utilized in moving extensive areas of land in a very short time. Accordingly, when a few days occur early in the season favourable to the working of the land, much of it can be got into a forward condition, whilst horses are set free for the lighter operations. The crops can then be sown in due time, which in wet years, and with the usual teams of horses kept on a farm, is not always practicable. Much advantage arises from the steam working of bastard fallows in summer, and after harvest a considerable amount of autumn cultivation can be done by steam power, thus materially lightening the work in the succeeding spring. On farms of moderate size it is usual to hire steam tackle as required, the outlay involved in the purchase of a set being justifiable only in the case of estates or of very big farms where, when not engaged in ploughing, or in cultivating, or in other work upon the land, the steam-engine may be employed in threshing, chaff-cutting, sawing and many similar operations which require power. The labour question again became acute in the early years of the 20th century, when, owing to the scarcity of hands and the high rate of wages, self-binding harvesters were resorted to in England for the ingathering of the corn crops to a greater extent than ever before. For the same reason potato-planting and potato-lifting machines were also in greater requisition.

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