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Old 07/23/08, 04:56 PM
SkizzlePig's Avatar  
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Sandhills South Carolina
Posts: 304
Harrows, Cultivators and Plows ... oh my!

So ... let me start off by saying I know VERY little about harrows, cultivators and plows, but I'm reading lots and learning some.

Here's my question:
Since a cultivator is designed for deep soil and a harrow is designed for surface soil, why won't you only use a plow ... which is designed for medium and surface soil? Do tell ...

I'm trying to determine which implements I'll need to efficiently handle a myriad of crops over a five acre planting area.


PS: I like the cultivator if for no other reason than it looks a bit medievil
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Old 07/23/08, 06:26 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: north-central Kansas
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Think you have a cultivator and plow confused. A plow is to turn over soil , can be to a depth of 8 or 10 inches. A cultivator is for shallow tillage, to get weeds coming up in the top couple of inches. A harrow is used to smooth the surface as a final for planting. Of course maybe in Oregon they call things by different names than here in Kansas.
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Old 07/23/08, 06:39 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Lexington KY
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If you want to use a plow, you need a harrow. Cultivating can be done with a hoe.

If you don't want to plow or harrow you can buy a roto-tiller

here is a picture of a plowed field

half way down this page is one that has been harrowed (titled dog heaven)
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Last edited by sugarbush; 07/23/08 at 06:45 PM.
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Old 07/23/08, 06:54 PM
In Remembrance
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: South Central Kansas
Posts: 11,076
I agree with ksfarmer. I think of tillage equipment as an implement that is used to turn, open (rip), or aerate the soil. Tillage is usually fairly deep. It may be done by plow, disk, one-way disk, chisel, subsoiler, undercutters (vee plows) probably fall into this category although they are used to eliminate weeds but are often used to work wheat stubble and other residues if they aren't too heavy. There are also a lot of newer combination implements which I am not real familiar with. Plowing is somewhat out of vogue being replaced by minimum tillage and no-till practices which go hand in hand with chemicals.
Instead of chemicals cover crops flattened into mulch by something like this: may work for you. However you will have to have a no-till drill to plant into the residue.

Cultivation works the soil just deep enough to kill weeds and dry the soil enough to prevent more from sprouting. That is kind of a basic description. Blind cultivation is done with an implement that works an entire area including over the crop, i.e. blind to the growing crop. Spring tine cultivators, rotary-hoes, spike toothed harrows etc. can all perform this task. Generally though chisels or sweeps are used to run on each side of a row to eliminate the weeds.

Generally harrows can be of two types, the aforementioned spike toothed harrow and the spring toothed harrow. The spiked kind generally look similar to railroad spikes as teeth. They are often used to break up clogged that were formed from ground being worked too wet. The spring kind are several feel long formed into a C shape or somewhat of a coil shape if you prefer that description. They will tear out larger weeds and shatter crusts that have formed from hard rains. Both do well for smoothing the soil.

Unless you use minimum till or no-till one implement you will surely want will be a disk. Depending upon what you will pull it with a larger heavier disk will cut into the soil better unless the discs are too worn.

If you can tell us the crops you plan to grow we can give more specific implement needs.
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Old 07/23/08, 07:03 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Lexington KY
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I think that getting into no-till and seed drilling will only serve to confuse Unlikely Farmer more. I agree that with more information on whether you are looking at plowing a small area or hundreds of acres will help us point you in the right direction..... Also a budget might be a good piece of information to have
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Old 07/23/08, 08:19 PM
In Remembrance
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: South Central Kansas
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Depending upon cropping plans and whether one wishes to use chemicals can determine whether any implements other than a sprayer and no-till drill are used.

I used to minimum till and used only a disk, a sprayer, and a planter, and of course chemicals. It made the difference between getting a milo crop or not in dry western Kansas.

I should note that no-till drills have come a long way since the 1970s and 1980s, they pull hard and require a lot of horsepower for their width or number of rows.

Probably not an option for a neophyte.
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Old 07/23/08, 08:20 PM
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Location: Wisconsin
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You need to analyze your soil to see what your dealing with...sand,clay,loam, or any combination thereof. You can dig holes to get a rough idea what the texture is, but you need to get the soil analyzed to see what it might need added to it to grow specific crops.

Buy a plow that your tractor can handle...such as two-bottom,three bottom,3 pt. or pull behind,etc. We plow 9 inches deep here.

Disc harrow the plowed field enough times to break up the clods. We usually disc it 4 times here because of the heavy soil.

Don't even consider a rototiller for 5 acres unless it is 36" or more,tractor pto operated, and just use it to break up the soil more finely.

It's not good enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what's required. - Winston Churchill
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Old 07/23/08, 08:59 PM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: iowa
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Here in Iowa I plow in the fall to turn the soil over and freeze-thaw during the winter.I disc it in the spring and the follow up in a week or so with a field cultivator with a drag(spike tooth harrow) pulled behind the cultivator.The field can then be planted to corn or beans.You can now either use chemicals to control weeds or you can drag with a harrow about five days after planting and use a rotary hoe about ten days after planting.You can then use a row cultivator to cultivate as often as is required to control grass and weeds.There are other implements out there,but these are the basics.You could get by without the rotary hoe,but you would have to row cultivate sooner.My dad used to have me cultivate the planter tracks(blind cultivate) when he did not drag right after planting.Talk to some of your farmer neighbors for some local info.Good luck.
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Old 07/24/08, 04:05 AM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: MN
Posts: 8,101
Here in the midwest:

Deep tillage is done with a plow or a ripper or a chisel plow. These dig 8 plus inches deep, and tend to leave the soil very very lumpy. We do this in fall, and let winter mellow the lumps. Perhaps in your climate you would do it when the ground is drier, and wait for some rains to mellow the lumps....

In spring we use a medium tillage machine, they go 3-4 inches deep. A field cultivator or a disk (also known as a disk-harrow by some). These knock around the lumps, kill off weeds, and prepare a pretty good seedbed. The disk tends to cut up lumps and weeds, but it can terribly pack clay soils into a hard brick. Field cultivators tend to leave the ground looking lumpy, but they actually loosen the soil better, and leave all the fine soil an inch to 3 inches deep, with the lumps on top. This puts the fine good soil right where you are going to place your seed. In our soils we have parked the disks, and use field cultivators most of the time. The disk (disk-harrow) can make a prettier looking field, but the field cultivator makes a more seed-friendly field!

If you wish to work up cornstalks, grass, etc without plowing it (this is possible in mellow sandier soil, some don't need to plow so deep & heavy), then the disk will cut through this crop trash and bury it a bit; the field cultivator will plug up. In this case the disk (disk-harrow) is much better.

Often times some sort of drag, or harrow, is on the back of a field cutlivator. It knocks the lumps apart, and makes a very level seedbed for crops like alfalfa.

The harrow - or drag - can be a seperate item, and used to break up lumps, do light weeding, level off fields to a very snmooth finish, or harrow in broadcast seeds like oats, wheat, etc.

Another implement is a row crop cultivator - this has gaps in it to match the rows of corn, soybeans, or other row crops, and so you use it 2-4 times during the summer to kill off the weeds in your growing crop. Sometimes this type of cultivator gets confused with the other type mentioned above. They use similar shovels, but are different machines. They only go 2 inches deep, and are meant for weeding a crop already growing.

If the 5 acres will basically be a garden, you can just use a 5 or 6 foot tiller on a 25-35 hp tractor with a real slow forward gear & might only want a harrow section around to do some leveling & light weeding. Would not need anything else.

If you will end up doing more groundwork sometime in the future, then the tiller does get to be slow covering 10 or more acres.... But it does everything at once, if you plow, the fields are terrible rough, you will need to disk 2x, or field cultivate & probably harrow after to get a nice smooth seedbed.

It will help to know if this is going to be hay ground, or field crops, or a garden. Makes a difference on what I would get for equipment!

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Old 07/24/08, 06:35 AM
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: ohio
Posts: 693
another idea

a turn plow your tractor will handle an then either a disk that your tractor will handle or a roto tiller that your tractor will handle.

cheapest by far would be a used turnplow and used disk that your tractor can handle.
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