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The plough (American spelling: plow; both pronounced /ˈplaʊ/) is a tool used in farming for initial cultivation of soil in preparation for sowing seed or planting. It has been a basic instrument for most of recorded history, and represents one of the major advances in agriculture. The primary purpose of ploughing is to turn over the upper layer of the soil, bringing fresh nutrients to the surface, while burying weeds and the remains of previous crops, allowing them to break down. It also aerates the soil, and allows it to hold moisture better. In modern use, a ploughed field is typically left to dry out, and is then harrowed before planting.

Ploughs were initially pulled by oxen, and later in many areas by horses (generally draught horses) and mules. In industrialised countries, the first mechanical means of pulling a plough used steam-powered (ploughing engines or steam tractors), but these were gradually superseded by internal-combustion-powered tractors. In the past two decades plough use has reduced in some areas (where soil damage and erosion are problems), in favour of shallower ploughing and other less invasive tillage techniques.

Ploughs are even used under the sea, for the laying of cables, as well as preparing the earth for side-scan sonar[citation needed] in a process used in oil exploration.


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