The history of ploughing competitions in Germany

”It did not begin with Cain, it began with Abel! Somewhere in the British countryside, Abel the agricultural engineer watched a ploughing contest and became inspired. He had never set eyes on such accuracy. He got his hands on a copy of the ploughing rules and sent them to his friend, Walter Feuerlein, in Ulm - he immediately realised that this could be the key. This was just the thing to get young farmers more excited about improving cultivation. A good example has always fared better than many judicious sermons.” Karl-Heinz Gebbers, former Head of the Council for Rural Youth in Bonn.

And that was how competitive ploughing found its roots in Germany in the 50’s. The Second World War, having just come to an end, prevented agricultural development. In most places, the soil was still tended to with horse or ox-drawn carts. This simply made people welcome change even more – such as a ploughing competition. 

Walter Feuerlein, who worked as a plough expert in the Eberhard plough factory in Ulm, began by organising the first ploughing competitions in Germany and thus became the founder of competitive ploughing in this country.

After some smaller regional affairs, the first nationwide competition took place in Bonn in 1953, in the same year in which the first World Ploughing Championship took place. However, only participants who had qualified as national winners in first or second place in their country of origin could take part in the World Ploughing Championship hosted by Canada. To emphasise the importance of the first German Championship, Alfred Hall, the general secretary of the World Ploughing Organisation (WPO, which had been founded the year before) travelled in person to Bonn. Hall, a journalist and radio presenter, saw his life’s work in the realisation of the World Ploughing Championship and remained general secretary of the WPO for 40 years.

World Ploughing Organisation (WPO)

On 5 February 1952, the WPO was founded in Great Britain with the following goals:

  • Promoting the art and skill of ploughing
  • Hosting international ploughing
  • Organising and holding presentations and exhibitions
  • Supporting and aiding technological developments
  • Promoting food production for the growing global population
  • Cooperating with all organisations and groups which support the above goals
  • Camaraderie and understanding between all member states

The spirit of the WPO has been so strong in the past few years that the number of members has grown continuously to its current total of over 30 member nations.

Germany shall play host to the World Ploughing Championship

For the first time in 1958, just a few years after the WPO was founded, Germany played host to the World Ploughing Championship. The Agricultural University of Stuttgart-Hohenheim, which was at that time exactly 140 years old, and the cooperative school recently built in close proximity to the university were the perfect venue for this great event, the patron of which was the current Minister for Food, Agriculture and Forestry, Theodor Heuss. The ploughing demonstration performed as part of the World Ploughing Championship was dedicated to Max Eyth, headed by the motto “From Max Eyth’s steam plough to the mounted plough of 1958”; Max Eyth, who came from Swabia, travelled the world with his steam ploughs 100 years before and became a pioneer of agricultural engineering.

In 1978, twenty years later, the Wickstadt estate in Hesse became the venue for the second World Ploughing Championship held in Germany.

Another twenty years later in 1998, Landshut in Bavaria had its turn as venue. The last World Ploughing Championship held in Germany was an event to remember for all who attended - not least because of the non-stop rain!

Foundation of the Deutscher Pflügerrat e.V.

By 1990, the East German ploughing contest was held. The regulations for the competitions in East Germany were far more comprehensive than those in West Germany. This division caused problems in the World Championship 1965 in Norway. Due to the tense relations at this time between East and West Germany, the West German team was close to withdrawing their participation due to the East German team entering the competition.

In order to avoid such complications at subsequent competitions, the teams were to be represented globally by an association.
Thus, in 1968, the Deutsche Pflügerrat e.V. was founded, which since then has become the organiser of regional competitions across Germany as well as, after a twenty-year break, of the World Ploughing Championship 2018 in Germany.