Threshing machine

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A threshing machine in operation Threshing Machine In Action.jpg
A threshing machine in operation

A threshing machine or a thresher is a piece of farm equipment that threshes grain, that is, it removes the seeds from the stalks and husks. It does so by beating the plant to make the seeds fall out.

Contents

Before such machines were developed, threshing was done by hand with flails: such hand threshing was very laborious and time-consuming, taking about one-quarter of agricultural labour by the 18th century. [1] Mechanization of this process removed a substantial amount of drudgery from farm labour. The first threshing machine was invented circa 1786 by the Scottish engineer Andrew Meikle, and the subsequent adoption of such machines was one of the earlier examples of the mechanization of agriculture. During the 19th century, threshers and mechanical reapers and reaper-binders gradually became widespread and made grain production much less laborious.

Michael Stirling is said to have invented a rotary threshing machine in 1758 which for forty years was used to process all the corn on his farm at Gateside. No published works have yet been found but his son William made a sworn statement to his minister to this fact. He also gave him the details of his father's death in 1796.[ citation needed ]

Separate reaper-binders and threshers have largely been replaced by machines that combine all of their functions, that is combine harvesters or combines. However, the simpler machines remain important as appropriate technology in low-capital farming contexts, both in developing countries and in developed countries on small farms that strive for especially high levels of self-sufficiency. For example, pedal-powered threshers are a low-cost option, and some Amish sects use horse-drawn binders and old-style threshers.

As the verb thresh is cognate with the verb thrash (and synonymous in the grain-beating sense), the names thrashing machine and thrasher are (less common) alternate forms.

Early social impacts

Threshing machine from 1881 Batteuse 1881.jpg
Threshing machine from 1881

The Swing Riots in the UK were partly a result of the threshing machine. Following years of war, high taxes and low wages, farm labourers finally revolted in 1830. These farm labourers had faced unemployment for a number of years due to the widespread introduction of the threshing machine and the policy of enclosing fields. No longer were thousands of men needed to tend the crops, a few would suffice. With fewer jobs, lower wages and no prospects of things improving for these workers the threshing machine was the final straw, the machine was to place them on the brink of starvation. The Swing Rioters smashed threshing machines and threatened farmers who had them.

The riots were dealt with very harshly. Nine of the rioters were hanged and a further 450 were transported to Australia.

Later adoption

Irreler Bauerntradition shows an early threshing machine (Stiftendrescher) at the Roscheider Hof Open Air Museum
Irreler Bauerntradition shows a winnowing machine at the Roscheider Hof Open Air Museum

Early threshing machines were hand-fed and horse-powered. They were small by today's standards and were about the size of an upright piano. Later machines were steam-powered, driven by a portable engine or traction engine. Isaiah Jennings, a skilled inventor, created a small thresher that doesn't harm the straw in the process. In 1834, John Avery and Hiram Abial Pitts devised significant improvements to a machine that automatically threshes and separates grain from chaff, freeing farmers from a slow and laborious process. Avery and Pitts were granted United States patent #542 on December 29, 1837. [2] [3]

John Ridley, an Australian inventor, also developed a threshing machine in South Australia in 1843. [4]

The 1881 Household Cyclopedia said of Meikle's machine:

"Since the invention of this machine, Mr. Meikle and others have progressively introduced a variety of improvements, all tending to simplify the labour, and to augment the quantity of the work performed. When first erected, though the grain was equally well separated from the straw, yet as the whole of the straw, chaff, and grain, was indiscriminately thrown into a confused heap, the work could only with propriety be considered as half executed. By the addition of rakes, or shakers, and two pairs of fanners, all driven by the same machinery, the different processes of thrashing, shaking, and winnowing are now all at once performed, and the grain immediately prepared for the public market. When it is added, that the quantity of grain gained from the superior powers of the machine is fully equal to a twentieth part of the crop, and that, in some cases, the expense of thrashing and cleaning the grain is considerably less than what was formerly paid for cleaning it alone, the immense saving arising from the invention will at once be seen.
"The expense of horse labour, from the increased value of the animal and the charge of his keeping, being an object of great importance, it is recommended that, upon all sizable farms, that is to say, where two hundred acres [800,000 m²], or upwards, of grain are sown, the machine should be worked by wind, unless where local circumstances afford the conveniency of water. Where coals are plenty and cheap, steam may be advantageously used for working the machine."

Steam-powered machines used belts connected to a traction engine; often both engine and thresher belonged to a contractor who toured the farms of a district. Steam remained a viable commercial option until the early post-WWII years.

Open-air museum in Saint-Hubert, Belgium. Batteuse - St-Michel 1.JPG
Open-air museum in Saint-Hubert, Belgium.

Farming process

Threshing is just one step of the process in getting cereals to the grinding mill and customer. The wheat needs to be grown, cut, stooked (shocked, bundled), hauled, threshed, de-chaffed, straw baled, and then the grain hauled to a grain elevator. For many years each of these steps was an individual process, requiring teams of workers and many machines. In the steep hill wheat country of Palouse in the Northwest of the United States, steep ground meant moving machinery around was problematic and prone to rolling. To reduce the amount of work on the sidehills, the idea arose of combining the wheat binder and thresher into one machine, known as a combine harvester. About 1910, horse pulled combines appeared and became a success. Later, gas and diesel engines appeared with other refinements and specifications.

Modern developments

In Europe and Americas

Threshing of paddy by machine, Bangladesh. Agriculture of Bangladesh 10.jpg
Threshing of paddy by machine, Bangladesh.

Modern day combine harvesters (or simply combines) operate on the same principles and use the same components as the original threshing machines built in the 19th century. Combines also perform the reaping operation at the same time. The name combine is derived from the fact that the two steps are combined in a single machine. Also, most modern combines are self-powered (usually by a diesel engine) and self-propelled, although tractor powered, pull type combines models were offered by John Deere and Case International into the 1990s.

Today, as in the 19th century, the threshing begins with a cylinder and concave. The cylinder has sharp serrated bars, and rotates at high speed (about 500 RPM), so that the bars beat against the entire plant as it is mechanically fed from the reaping equipment at the front of the combine to the gap between the concave and the rotating beater/cylinder. The concave is curved to match the curve of the cylinder, and the grain, now separated from the plant stalks falls immediately through grated openings in the concave as it is beaten. The motion of the rotating cylinder thrusts the remaining straw and chaff toward the rear of the machine.

Whilst the majority of the grain falls through the concave, the straw is carried by a set of "walkers" to the rear of the machine, allowing any grain and chaff still in the straw to fall below. Below the straw walkers, a fan blows a stream of air across the grain, removing dust and small bits of crushed plant material out of the back of the combine. The residues fall to the ground and occasional are collected for other purposes, such as fodder.

The grain, either coming through the concave or the walkers, meets a set of sieves mounted on an assembly called a shoe, which is shaken mechanically. The top sieve has larger openings, and serves to remove large pieces of chaff from the grain. The lower sieve separates clean grain, which falls through, from incompletely threshed pieces. The incompletely threshed grain is returned to the cylinder by means of a system of conveyors, where the process repeats.

Some threshing machines were equipped with a bagger, which invariably held two bags, one being filled, and the other being replaced with an empty. A worker called a sewer removed and replaced the bags, and sewed full bags shut with a needle and thread. Other threshing machines would discharge grain from a conveyor, for bagging by hand. Combines are equipped with a grain tank, which accumulates grain for deposit in a truck or wagon.

A large amount of chaff and straw would accumulate around a threshing machine, and several innovations, such as the air chaffer, were developed to deal with this. Combines generally chop and disperse straw as they move through the field, though the chopping is disabled when the straw is to be baled, and chaff collectors are sometimes used to prevent the dispersal of weed seed throughout a field.

The corn sheller was almost identical in design, with slight modifications to deal with the larger kernel size and presence of cobs. Modern-day combines can be adjusted to work with any grain crop, and many unusual seed crops.

Both the older and modern machines require a good deal of effort to operate. The concave clearance, cylinder speed, fan velocity, sieve sizes, and feeding rate must be adjusted for crop conditions.

Another development in Asia

Video of a petrol-powered machine threshing rice in Hainan, China

From the early 20th century, petrol or diesel-powered threshing machines, designed especially to thresh rice, the most important crop in Asia, have been developed along different lines to the modern combine.

Even after the combine was invented and became popular, a new compact-size thresher called a harvester, with wheels, still remains in use and at present it is available from a Japanese agricultural manufacturer. The compact-size machine is very convenient to handle in small terrace fields in mountain areas where a large machine, such as combine, is not usable.

People there use this harvester with a modern compact binder.

Preservation

A number of older threshing machines have survived into preservation. They are often to be seen in operation at live steam festivals and traction engine rallies such as the Great Dorset Steam Fair in England, and the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion in northwest Minnesota.

Musical references

Irish songwriter John Duggan [5] immortalised the threshing machine in the song "The Old Thrashing Mill". [6] The song has been recorded by Foster and Allen and Brendan Shine.

On the Alan Lomax collection Songs of Seduction (Rounder Select, 2000), there is a bawdy Irish folk song called "The Thrashing Machine" sung by tinker Annie O'Neil, as recorded in the early 20th century.

In his film score for Of Mice and Men (1939) and consequently in his collection Music for the Movies (1942), American composer Aaron Copland titled a section of the score "Threshing Machines," to suit a scene in the Lewis Milestone film where Curley is threatening Slim over giving May a puppy, when many of the itinerant worker men are standing around or working on threshers.

In the song "Thrasher" from the album Rust Never Sleeps , Neil Young compares the modern threshing machine's technique of separating wheat from wheat stalks to the natural forces of time that separate close friends from one another.

Threshing machines appear in Twenty One Pilots' music video for the song "House of Gold".

See also

Related Research Articles

Combine harvester machine that harvests grain crops

The modern combine harvester, or simply combine, is a versatile machine designed to efficiently harvest a variety of grain crops. The name derives from its combining three separate harvesting operations—reaping, threshing, and winnowing—into a single process. Among the crops harvested with a combine are wheat, oats, rye, barley, corn (maize), sorghum, soybeans, flax (linseed), sunflowers and canola. The separated straw, left lying on the field, comprises the stems and any remaining leaves of the crop with limited nutrients left in it: the straw is then either chopped, spread on the field and ploughed back in or baled for bedding and limited-feed for livestock.

Chaff Protective casings of the seeds of cereal grain

Chaff is the dry, scaly protective casing of the seeds of cereal grains, or similar fine, dry, scaly plant material such as scaly parts of flowers, or finely chopped straw. Chaff is indigestible by humans, but livestock can eat it and in agriculture it is used as livestock fodder, or is a waste material ploughed into the soil or burned.

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.

Reaper-binder harvesting machine

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.

Threshing Process of loosening the edible part of cereal grain from the scaly, inedible chaff that surrounds it

Threshing is the process of loosening the edible part of grain from the chaff to which it is attached. It is the step in grain preparation after reaping. Threshing does not remove the bran from the grain.

Mechanised agriculture agriculture using powered machinery

Mechanised agriculture is the process of using agricultural machinery to mechanise the work of agriculture, greatly increasing farm worker productivity. In modern times, powered machinery has replaced many farm jobs formerly carried out by manual labour or by working animals such as oxen, horses and mules.

Case Corporation agricultural and construction equipment manufacturer

The Case Corporation was a manufacturer of construction equipment and agricultural equipment. Founded, in 1842, by Jerome Increase Case as the J. I. Case Threshing Machine Company, it operated under that name for most of a century. For another 66 years it was the J. I. Case Company, and was often called simply Case. In the late 19th century, Case was one of America's largest builders of steam engines, producing self-propelled portable engines, traction engines and steam tractors. It was a major producer of threshing machines and other harvesting equipment, The company also produced various machinery for the U.S. military. In the 20th century, Case was among the 10 largest builders of farm tractors for many years. In the 1950s its construction equipment line became its primary focus, with agricultural business second.

Threshing floor

Threshing (thrashing) was originally "...'to tramp or stamp heavily with the feet'..." and was later applied to the act of separating out grain by the feet of people or oxen and still later with the use of a flail. A threshing floor is of two main types: 1) a specially flattened outdoor surface, usually circular and paved, or 2) inside a building with a smooth floor of earth, stone or wood where a farmer would thresh the grain harvest and then winnow it. Animal and steam powered threshing machines from the nineteenth century onward made threshing floors obsolete. The outdoor threshing floor was either owned by the entire village or by a single family, and it was usually located outside the village in a place exposed to the wind.

Avery Company

The Avery Company, founded by Robert Hanneman Avery, was an American farm tractor manufacturer famed for its undermounted engine which resembled a railroad engine more than a conventional farm steam engine. Avery founded the farm implement business after the Civil War. His company built a large line of products, including steam engines, beginning in 1891. The company started with a return flue design and later adapted the undermount style, including a bulldog design on the smokebox door. Their design was well received by farmers in central Illinois. They expanded their market nationwide and overseas until the 1920s, when they failed to innovate and the company faltered. They manufactured trucks for a period of time, and then automobiles. until they finally succumbed to an agricultural crisis and the Depression.

Gleaner Manufacturing Company company

The Gleaner Manufacturing Company is an American manufacturer of combine harvesters. Gleaner has been a popular brand of combine harvester particularly in the Midwestern United States for many decades, first as an independent firm, and later as a division of Allis-Chalmers. The Gleaner brand continues today under the ownership of AGCO.

Agricultural machinery Machinery used in farming or other agriculture

Agricultural machinery is machinery used in farming or other agriculture. There are many types of such equipment, from hand tools and power tools to tractors and the countless kinds of farm implements that they tow or operate. Diverse arrays of equipment are used in both organic and nonorganic farming. Especially since the advent of mechanised agriculture, agricultural machinery is an indispensable part of how the world is fed.

Threshing stone

A threshing stone is a roller-like tool used for the threshing of wheat. Similar to the use of threshing boards, the stone was pulled by horses over a circular pile of harvested wheat on a hardened dirt surface, and the rolling stone knocked the grain from the head of wheat. The straw was removed from the pile and the remaining grain and chaff was collected. By a process called winnowing, the grain was tossed into the air to allow the chaff and dirt to be blown away, leaving only the grain.

Stripper was a type of harvesting machine common in Australia in the late 19th and early 20th century. John Ridley is now accepted as its inventor, though John Wrathall Bull argued strongly for the credit.

Threshing is a key part of agriculture that involves removing the seeds or grain from plants from the plant stalk. In the case of small farms, threshing is done by beating or crushing the grain by hand or foot, and requires a large amount of hard physical labour. A simple thresher with a crank can be used to make this work much easier for the farmer. In most cases it takes two people to work these: one person to turn the crank and the other to feed the grain through the machine. These threshers can be built using simple materials and can improve the efficiency of grain threshing. They can also be built with pedals, or be attached to a bicycle, so that the person operating it can simply pedal to reduce the work even more and make threshing faster.

The Selbstfahrer is the first self-propelled combine harvester by Claas. In total, 19.465 units were produced from 1952 to 1963. The German name Selbstfahrer literally means Self-propeller and in the German agricultural language, it refers to a combine harvester or agricultural machine that can propel itself. Initially, the name of the Selbstfahrer was Hercules; due to an already registered trademark with the name Hercules, the combine harvester was renamed SF for Selbstfahrer in 1953. In contemporary brochures, the Selbstfahrer is called Claas Selbstfahrer Type S.F.55. It was targeted at agricultural contractors and large farms in Europe. In 1961, the Selbstfahrer was succeeded by the Matador. However, it was kept in production until 1963.

S-4 Stalinets Self-propelled combine harvester

The S-4 «Stalinets», is a self-propelled combine harvester, made by several different combine harvester plants in the former Soviet Union, from 1947 until 1955. In 1955, the modernised variant, called the S-4M, was introduced; it was put out of production in 1958. In total, 29,582 units were built. In former East Germany, the S-4 combine was built under licence by the IFA as the Fortschritt E 170 series, from 1954 until 1967. Unlike the original S-4, which is powered by an otto engine, the Fortschritt E 170 series combines were all powered by a diesel engine, and some of them came with a chaff waggon rather than a straw waggon.

Fortschritt E 512 Self-propelled combine harvester

The Fortschritt E 512 is a self-propelled combine harvester, that was made by the East-German manufacturer VEB Mähdrescherwerk Bischofswerda/Singwitz, and sold under the Fortschritt brand. It is the first Fortschritt combine harvester, that has been solely developed in the GDR. The E 512 succeeded the Fortschritt E 170 series. At the time of its introduction in the late 1960s, the E 512 was a modern, sought-after combine harvester, that could compete well with high-performance combines made in Western countries, such as the Clayson 140 and the Claas Senator. In total, 51,412 units were made from 1968 until 1988, which makes the E 512 the East German combine harvester with the highest production figure.

Fortschritt E 514

The Fortschritt E 514 is a self-propelled combine harvester, that was made by the East-German manufacturer VEB Mähdrescherwerk Bischofswerda/Singwitz in Singwitz, and sold under the Fortschritt brand. It is the successor to the Fortschritt E 512, which it did not manage to replace – the E 514 was produced alongside the E 512 from 1982 until 1988.

Fortschritt E 162 Tractor-drawn combine harvester

The Fortschritt E 162, also known as the LBH 52 Kombinus, is a tractor-drawn combine harvester, made by the East-German manufacturer VEB Mähdrescherwerk Boschofswerda/Singwitz in Singwitz, from 1952 until 1956. In total, 54 were built. The E 162 proved to be an unreliable combine, and it was soon replaced by the Fortschritt E 170 series.

References

  1. Clark, Gregory (2007). A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World . Princeton University Press. p.  286. ISBN   978-0-691-12135-2.
  2. "United States Patent: 0000542" . Retrieved 18 July 2013.
  3. "When threshing machines were harvest kings". Small Business Advances.
  4. H. J. Finnis (1967). "Ridley, John (1806 - 1887)". Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2. MUP. p. 379. Retrieved 2007-08-19.
  5. http://www.bardis.ie/composers.htm#duggan
  6. Song lyrics: The Old Threshing Mill