Sheaf (agriculture)

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Wheat sheaves near King's Somborne. Here the individual sheaves have been put together into a stook ("stooked") to dry. Wheat sheaves near King's Somborne - geograph.org.uk - 889992.jpg
Wheat sheaves near King's Somborne. Here the individual sheaves have been put together into a stook ("stooked") to dry.
A sheaf of grain on a plaque Centenary plaque sheaf.JPG
A sheaf of grain on a plaque
Sheafing machine Eilensen Mb (2018).jpg
Sheafing machine

A sheaf (/ʃiːf/) is a bunch of cereal-crop stems bound together after reaping, traditionally by sickle, later by scythe or, after its introduction in 1872, by a mechanical reaper-binder.

Contents

Traditional hand-reapers, using scythes and working as a team, cut a field of grain clockwise, starting from an outside edge and finishing in the middle. Scything leaves a windrow of cut stems to the left of the reaper and, if cut skillfully, leaves the seed heads more or less aligned. These are then picked up and tied into sheaves by the sheavers, who traditionally use other cut stems as ties. These sheavers, or a following team, then stand the sheaves up in stooks to dry. Three to eight sheaves make up each stook, which forms a self-supporting A-frame with the grain-heads meeting at the top. This keeps the grain well ventilated, and off the ground allowing it to dry and discouraging vermin. The drying sheaves are later either placed by hand or pitched onto a cart. The traditional sheaf pitchfork has a long wooden handle, two short tynes and a rounded back to make the placing of sheaves easy. The gathered sheaves are then either built into stacks (thatched stacks could be over 20' high [1] [ circular reference ]) or taken to a barn for further drying before being threshed to separate the grain from the stems.

The mechanisation of agriculture in industrialised countries, in particular the introduction of the combine harvester from the middle of the 19th century, has made the sheaf redundant, but sheaves remain in widespread use wherever harvesting is still done by hand or by reaper-binder.

Heraldry

A sheaf in the coat of arms of Lumparland Lumparland.vaakuna.svg
A sheaf in the coat of arms of Lumparland

In heraldry a wheat sheaf is called a garb .

See also

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Scythe Agricultural reaping hand tool

A scythe is an agricultural hand tool for mowing grass or harvesting crops. It is traditionally used to cut down or reap edible grains, before the process of threshing. The scythe has largely been replaced by horse-drawn and then tractor machinery, but is still used in some areas of Europe and Asia. Reapers are bladed machines that automate the cutting of the scythe, and sometimes subsequent steps in preparing the grain or the straw or hay.

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Reaper Harvesting machine

A reaper is a farm implement or person that reaps crops at harvest when they are ripe. Usually the crop involved is a cereal grass. The first documented reaping machines were Gallic reaper that was used in modern-day France during Roman times. The Gallic reaper involved a comb which collected the heads, with an operator knocking the grain into a box for later threshing.

Sickle Single-handed agricultural tool

A sickle, bagging hook, reaping-hook or grasshook is a single-handed agricultural tool designed with variously curved blades and typically used for harvesting, or reaping, grain crops or cutting succulent forage chiefly for feeding livestock, either freshly cut or dried as hay. Falx was a synonym but was later used to mean any of a number of tools that had a curved blade that was sharp on the inside edge such as a scythe.

Reaper-binder

The reaper-binder, or binder, is a farm implement that improved upon the simple reaper. The binder was invented in 1872 by Charles Baxter Withington, a jeweler from Janesville, Wisconsin. In addition to cutting the small-grain crop, a binder also 'binds' the stems into bundles or sheaves. These sheaves are usually then 'shocked' into A-shaped conical stooks, resembling small tipis, to allow the grain to dry for several days before being picked up and threshed.

Swather

A swather, or windrower, is a farm implement that cuts hay or small grain crops and forms them into a windrow. "Swather" is predominantly the North American term for these machines. In Australia and other parts of the world, they are called "windrowers". They aid harvesting by speeding up the process of drying the crop down to a moisture content suitable for harvesting and storage.

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Stook

A stook /stʊk/, also referred to as a shock or stack, is an arrangement of sheaves of cut grain-stalks placed so as to keep the grain-heads off the ground while still in the field and prior to collection for threshing. Stooked grain sheaves are typically wheat, barley and oats.

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Grain cradle

A grain cradle or cradle, is a modification to a standard scythe to keep the cut grain stems aligned. The cradle scythe has an additional arrangement of fingers attached to the snaith to catch the cut grain so that it can be cleanly laid down in a row with the grain heads aligned for collection and efficient threshing.

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Swathe

A swathe or swath is the width of a scythe stroke or a mowing-machine blade, the path of this width made in mowing or the mown grass or grain lying on such a path. The mower with a scythe moves along the mowing-edge with the uncut grass to the right and the cut grass laid in a neat row to the left, on the previously mown land. The swathe width depends on the blade length, the nature of the crop and the mower but is usually about 1.5 metres wide. Mowing may be done by a team of mowers, usually starting at the edges of a meadow then proceeding clockwise leaving a series of staggered swathes and finishing in the middle.

Bandwin

A bandwin was a team of agricultural workers in the Scottish Lowlands before the agricultural revolution, who carried out the harvest.

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