This fine example of a single-share ironwork plough dates from around 1880. It was imported from England by William Farrer who developed the rust-resistant Federation wheat strain that provided a major boost to the Australian wheat industry. Farrer lived on a station in the Australian Capital Territory named 'Limbrigg' and wanted to use this plough for potato farming. His experiments with wheat however postponed his using the plough and after his death in 1906 it was relegated to the station dump.
Around 1945 a farmer named John Bluett who ran a property near 'Limbrigg' was complaining to a neighbour about the trouble he was having keeping casual staff to dig up his potato crop. His neighbour suggested he visit 'Limbrigg' and see if he could find William Farrer's old potato plough which Bluett duly did. The plough was found in the dump but the fact that the wood had rotted did not prevent Bluett from taking it home and fixing it up. Although over 70 years old by this time the potato plough proved itself as useful as ever. It saved on labour and was economical enough for Bluett to use to harvest his potato's for over seven years, in between loans to neighbouring potato farmers. The development of the plough represented a significant shift in human evolution. Although the first ploughs were simple devices made from forked sticks they allowed farmers to prepare larger fields for seeding. Instead of simply tilling the soil for their own needs the plough helped farmers develop commercially viable fields.
The plough was thought to have developed first in Egypt but as the technology was taken up around the world people soon found that they needed to modify the design to account for different soil types. However a major change to design occurred in the mid 1600s when Joseph Foljambe from Holland introduced a plough which had fittings and a coulter made from iron and a mouldboard and share covered with iron plate. In 1763 John Small applied mathematical calculations to the mouldboard shape and eventually produced a shape that would turn the soil more effectively with less draft, wear and strain. This plough known as 'Scots Plough' was the beginning of the plough we all know today.
The introduction of metal allowed ploughs to become more efficient in wetter climates and by 1850 attempts were made to use the steam engine to drive the plough. However the slowness and heavy weight of these machines meant it was introduced in a very limited way. For this reason almost all ploughs remained tethered to animals until the early years of twentieth century. The invention of the automobile in the early twentieth century and the subsequent development of tractors to pull larger ploughing equipment speeded up the farming processes. This allowed greater areas to be tilled and planted increasing the productivity of those nations able to untether the plough from animal power.
http://historylink101.com/lessons/farm-city/steam-engine.htm, (viewed 17.11.2006), http://www.ploughmen.co.uk/ploughhistory.htm, (viewed 17.11.2006)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_Capital_Territory , (viewed 21.11.2006)
Geoff Barker, March 2007