Moldboard Plowing Missing From The Equation

A drive through the Midwest finds everything but moldboard plowed fields.

Published on: Nov 20, 2012

A drive through four states on business revealed what is going on after fall harvest – and what isn't. Part of the "isn't" list is moldboard plowing. During a 1,200 mile trip, not one field was spotted that was obviously moldboard plowed.

At least two companies still sell new moldboard plows and bring them to the Farm Progress Show. In some areas there are still some people that opt for a moldboard plow vs. an aggressive ripper or aggressive vertical tillage tool even though they like the new machine. "I think it's habit," one equipment salesman says. His company offers both vertical tillage tools and a moldboard plow.

"We had a customer who looked over an aggressive vertical tillage tool up and down," he says. "He said he really liked it. But in the end he bought a moldboard plow."

Limited Tillage: Many farmers apparently have used tools like this one – a vertical tillage tool – this fall.
Limited Tillage: Many farmers apparently have used tools like this one – a vertical tillage tool – this fall.

Apparently, for some people at least, old habits are hard to break.

What we did see were fields that were chisel plowed, and others subsoiled with an in-line ripper. You can't tell the difference because in-line rippers, usually a coulter in front of a ripper knife, still leave lots of residue on the surface.

Also evident were fields where stalks were shredded but no other tillage had been done. And there were lots of fields that weren't touched at all. There were even some fields where corn was not yet harvested.

Whether the fields will stay with residue and no tillage over the winter remains unclear. Some likely will. Some have also had vertical tillage tools run over them, judging by the amount of residue left on the surface. It's possible that no more tillage will be done in those fields, at least this fall.

The lack of tillage was especially evident in Illinois. It also seemed to very area by area during different parts of the country.