A ditcher is an agricultural machine towed by a tractor to create drainage or irrigation canals. In the days before machinery, farmers dug ditches with picks and shovels to direct the flow and retention of water to the plants. Accurately graded ditches were essential for open drainage and for laying pipeline trenches. It was extremely hard work and significant hours to accomplish what machinery could eventually do very easily.
James B. Hill patented the first ditcher in 1894; it was initially powered by steam. The ditcher, with two operators, could dig a deep trench in less time that it would have taken 15 skilled laborers. By 1908, ditchers were powered with gasoline, and by 1920, they were diesel-fueled.
Ditcher Attachment in Action:
Patent Drawing of James B. Hill's Traction Ditching Machine. Image Source: PracticalMachinest.com