The Different Types of Plows

No matter what time of year it is, farming is a constantly active and ongoing process. Even in the depths of winter, farmers are hard at work planning for the next season, ordering supplies and machinery, and getting ready to seed their crops as soon as the ground thaws. Among the many pieces of machinery used in modern farming, the plow may be one of the most iconic.

Farmers have used different types of plows for centuries to break up the soil and prepare it for planting. When it comes to plows, there are many different types to choose from, and each type has its own benefits and drawbacks, so it’s important to know what each one is before making a purchase.

In this blog post, we’ll take a look at the six most common types of plows and discuss what makes them unique. We’ll also talk about when each type of plow is best used. So, whether you’re a farmer looking for your next piece of equipment or just curious about the different types of plows, read on!

What Is A Plow?

We should first define exactly what is a plow. A plow – which can also be spelled as plough – is a farming agricultural tool or machine that’s designed to break up and turn over the top layer of soil before planting crops, vegetation, and/or sowing seeds.

This brings new nutrients to the surface while also burying plant and food remains so they may decompose, feeding the soil beneath future crops. Plowing was one of the most important tools in early agriculture and it continues to play a vital role in modern farming practices. 

Plowing the top 12–25 centimeters (5–10 in) of soil evens out the field’s surface, where most plant roots develop. A plow’s wooden, iron, or steel frame may be fitted with a blade that slices through and loosens and aerates the dirt. Furrows are the name for the trenches produced by a plow.

What Does A Plow Do?

Plowing is one of the most crucial soil management techniques, having been used for centuries to produce a straight, grained, structural, and wet sowing layer. This layer contains healthy soil that makes it easier for seeds to take roots and helps the crops in it sprout easier and more productively, ensuring good crop yields.

Plowing allows a farmer to use and re-use a single plot of land, as each time the soil is overturned and re-layered, it acts like a new field. This saves space, money, and allows for more crops to be planted and sown per acre of land and a manifold increase in food supplies.

What Are The Primary Types Of Plows?

There are six primary plow types that farmers use in contemporary agricultural practices. These are the Moldboard Plow, Chisel Plow, Disk Plow, Ridge Plow, Sub-Soil Plow, and Reversible Garden Plow.

There are many older types of plows, such as the garden hoe and scratch plow, that are no longer used in wide-scale food production. See our post on the history of the plow for more information.

Moldboard Plow

The Moldboard Plow, also known as the Turn Plow and Frame Plow, was created in the eighteenth century.

It has a basic curved blade design that lifts and cuts the soil, after which it rotates the loosened dirt with only one easy movement. It cuts vertically into the ground with a coulter, when dragged through the field. The plowshare then cuts horizontally under the ground. As the plows moves forward, these two blades cut the turf and then the plowshare lifts the cut part and folds it over into the neighboring furrow.

Chisel Plow

The Chisel Plow is a unique type of plow that does not invert or turn the earth. It’s a common deep-tillage tool that causes little soil damage. It aims to aerate and loosen the soil while leaving crop residue on top. Chisel plows are generally likened cultivators that work deeper below the earth.

This functionality has made it a must-have in modern no-till and low-till agricultural practices, which seek to maximize the erosion prevention benefits of keeping organic matter and crop residues on the soil surface all year. As a result, the chisel plow is more environmentally friendly than other plows like moldboard plows.

Disc Plow

Disk Plows, also known as harrow plows, are usually equipped with at least three disks linked to a plow frame at certain locations. Disk plows are used by farmers for seed-bed preparation; their tractor draws the disks along the field as they dig into the ground.

When overused soil makes other plows ineffective, farmers generally employ disk plows. The proper size disk is determined by the soil content and type of preparation made for the crop. The typical commercial disk size is 14 inches, whereas a wider disk may range between 20 to 38 inches.

Ridge Plow

A Ridge Plow is used to till dirt ridges and produce hills for crops like potatoes or scallions, utilizing a method called hilling. A ridge plow has two back-to-back moldboards that create a deep furrow with steep ridges on both side after each pass. The same equipment may be then used to split the ridges and harvest the crops after they’ve grown.

Sub-Soil Plow

The Sub-Soil Plow, or just called a Subsoiler, works down to a lower level in the soil than other plows do. Most of the other plows on this list work down to a depth of 6-8 inches, but a subsoiler will go down to about 24 inches or even to 30 inches in some cases.

This type of plow doesn’t turn over the top layer of soil. It essentially acts as a tiller but for soil that is underneath or compacted by the hardpan topsoil layer. It helps to improve crop growth in fields and gardens that have problems with compaction.

Reversible Garden Plow

Reversible Garden Plows, like the Moldboard Plow, use two or more blades to cover a larger surface of ground. Each blade creates a single furrow. The blades are mounted back-to-back, with one set positioned to turn the soil over to the right and the other set to turn it over left.

With one row complete, the plow changes from the right blade to the left, or vice versa. The furrows are evenly spaced when this is done and allows the operator to work front to back in either direction.

Final Thoughts

Plows are an incredibly important farming tool that have been used for centuries. With the right kind of plow for your needs, you can make short work of turning over soil in preparation for planting. There are many different types of plows on the market today, and each one has its own unique purpose. It’s important to be familiar with the different plows available and understand when and how they should be used in order to get the most benefit from this time-tested piece of equipment.

We hope this article has helped you better understand what a plow is and what it can do for you. If you’re interested in learning more about the different types of plows or want to purchase your own, let us know! We’d be keen to help in any way we can. Happy gardening!