Reversible ploughs are in almost universal use on UK farms, the traditional centuries old conventional right-handed plough is now mainly seen at ploughing matches held throughout the country.

Basic plough settings with the exception of levelling the plough to achieve an even depth and the front furrow width adjustment are the same for right-handed and reversible ploughs.

This article deals with how to set the a right-handed plough in the yard before taking it to the field where fine adjustments may be necessary to suit the field conditions.

The first task is to measure the tractor wheel track is at the recommended setting for the plough, this can be found in the plough instruction book. An incorrect setting will result in the plough failing to run in line with the tractor; the top link will normally be parallel with the line of draught of the tractor. Having set the tractor wheel track to suit the plough furrow width – for example at 56in for 12 in furrows – and checking tractor tyre pressures – given in the instruction book - the plough can be attached to the three-point linkage. It is particularly important to have equal pressure in both rear tyres when reversible ploughing.

The easiest way to attach any mounted implement is to attach the left-hand lower link, followed by the adjustable right-hand lift arm and finally the top link. The check chains should be slack enough for the plough to float sideways without touching the rear tyres. Before moving off to the field at the start of the ploughing season make sure any levers, screw handles and adjusting bolts and treat then to a little lubricating oil. Basic plough settings are best made in the yard before putting the plough into the ground.

The soil engaging parts of a plough body consist of the mouldboard which turns the furrow slice, the share cuts the furrow bottom, the landside absorbs the plough’s side thrust and the heel iron on the rear landside supports some of the weight at the back of the plough. The tailpiece or mouldboard extension, when used, helps to push down the furrow slice as it leaves the mouldboard – it is particularly useful when ploughing up grassland and in heavy soils.

One of the first tasks when preparing a plough for work is to check the condition of the shares. Worn shares should be replaced as in this condition it may be difficult to get the plough into the ground especially in hard land. A simple check is made by holding straight edge from the under side of the tip of the share to the back of the landside making sure the plough is supported and cannot be accidentally lowered. As illustrated there should clearance or suck at the back of the share, a worn share with little or no suck should be replaced.

The disc coulter should be set at least 12mm (½ in) above the share – this measurement will need to be greater for deep ploughing to ensure the disc coulter hub does not rub, with resultant wear, on the unploughed land alongside the furrow about to be turned. The disc, which cuts the side of the furrow slice, should also be set about 12mm from the edge of the share towards the unploughed land. If the disc is set too far from the share there will be a step in the furrow wall. Setting the disc too close to the share will leave a ragged furrow wall with the edge of the mouldboard doing much of the work that should be done by the disc coulter.

The skimmer, or skim coulter, should be set just deep enough - and not more than one third of ploughing depth - to turn a small slice from the top edge of the furrow being turned. The skimmer throws this slice into the furrow bottom leaving no visible trash in the join between each furrow. The point of the skimmer share should be set below and behind the disc coulter hub and close to without actually touching the disc coulter. Some ploughs have a mouldboard extension, also known as a tailpiece. Its purpose is to press down the furrow slice as it leaves the mouldboard. When used the tailpiece needs to be set at the same height on all of the mouldboards. A tailpiece is particularly useful when ploughing grassland and heavy land as it helps to push down the furrow slice.

When using a conventional right-handed plough the width of the furrow turned by the front body width must match the width of the furrows turned by the other bodies on a multi-furrow plough. Achieving a matching front furrow width depends to a great extent on the correct tractor wheel track setting. Minor variations in front furrow width are made by rotating the cross shaft – the shaft to which the lower lift arms are attached – with a lever or screw handle. Adjusting the cross shaft on Ferguson ploughs is a spanner job. Ploughing depth again is either controlled with a lever or screw handle on ploughs with a depth wheel but when using a plough without a depth wheel the tractor’ draft control hydraulic system is used to control the working depth.

A plough with two or more bodies must also be set level to ensure each furrow is turned at the same depth which is easily checked with tape measure. Adjusting the screw handle on the tractor’s right-hand lift rod solves the problem of uneven furrow depth. Even depth furrows also rely on the plough having the correct pitch or angle of penetration of the shares into the soil so that the plough runs level from front to back when in work. Pitch is adjusted with the hydraulic top link. Too much pitch causes the front body to dig in too deep and the rear body heel iron rides clear of the furrow bottom – lengthening the top link corrects this fault. When the front body tends to run out of the ground with the rear heel iron makes a deep mark in the furrow bottom the top link is too long.