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Chisel Plow

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A multipurpose tillage tool for primary tillage, soil improvement, and residue management in agriculture is the chisel plow. It has several tines or shanks that pierce the soil and loosen it without inverting or burying the waste entirely. An overview of the chisel plow’s concepts, advantages, and management considerations are given below.

Chisel plow in an empty field.A chisel plow is a primary tillage practice that tills the soil, leaving a rough surface without causing soil inversion. It’s a full-width tillage (conventional) equipment causing soil disturbance across the field; however, it can provide more residue coverage than moldboard plows. A chisel plow is used to maintain more than 30% residue cover, making it a conservation tillage practice. Chisel plow can also be used as vertical tillage equipment if the points are vertical. This post will take you through the tillage system, and its various considerations for adoption.

Chisel plow systems can provide various levels of residue cover on the surface by varying the shank spacing, operating speed, chisel point selection, and tillage depth. The modifications depend on the grower’s requirements for weed control, residue management, and seedbed preparation. Slower speeds and shallower tillage depths can help leave more residue. Shank spacing is usually 12 inches; however, it can be changed up to 15 inches for enhanced residue handling. Coulter-chisel plow/disc-chisel plow is modified chisel plow equipment that can help with minimum tillage in all residue conditions. In addition to chisel teeth, the coulters or discs help cut the corn stalks/heavy residues, helping retain 30-75% of residues on the surface after a single pass. These can help alleviate the need for an additional pass for the pre-chiseling operation that would otherwise be required with a regular chisel plow without coulters/discs. Various chisel points are available in the market, and those variations determine the extent of soil mixing and residue retention. Chisel plows can have sweeps, and spike points that cause less inversion and less residue burial, whereas straight points and twisted points can do the opposite. Sweeps can cause horizontal shearing (density change between tilled soil and subsurface layers). In contrast, vertical points will not create this density change. Straight narrow points with 2-inch width can leave the most residue on the surface. But if the crop being cultivated leaves a fragile residue, a chisel plow with straight points might not provide the protective cover. In areas not prone to erosion, 3-4-inch-wide twisted points can be used to bury more residue and invert more soil. In corn production, wider sweeps are sometimes needed to cut the residues. Sweeps with 12-to-18-inch widths can help with weed control in untilled soil. The various chisel points that can be used to till the soil include a) 2-inch reversible pike point b) 2-inch reversible straight chisel point c) 3 inch right and left twisted shovels points d) 4.5-inch reversible shovel, and e) 8- or 10-inch shovels f) 12-, 14-, 16- or 18-inch sweeps.

Chisel plowing can form rougher seedbed that may cause uneven crop stand. It may also require a pre-chiseling operation to cut the heavy residues to avoid clogging when a regular chisel plow is run, causing more fuel and cost. However, this tillage system can still help minimize the erosion losses, crusting tendency, and plow pan formation that happens with intensive tillage practices like moldboard plowing. In addition, chiseling can also help tackle compaction, as it can operate to deeper depths. The 50-70% residue cover on the surface can help conserve soil, improve water management, and enhance crop yields. The versatility of this tillage equipment also provides the flexibility to choose the chisel plow that works best for your soil type and residue management. For further information regarding chisel plow tillage, you can join our extension and education activities.