Chisel Plow FAQ (13 Questions Answered!)

A chisel plow is an agricultural tool that can be attached to a tractor for working the fields. It is equipped with two rows of narrow ended or chiseled shovels that dig up and stir the soil separated by wheels to help the plow navigate the field as the tractor pulls it. 

In this article, we will answer all you need to know about chisel plows to best inform you if they are the right purchase for your agricultural needs. 

 What Is a Chisel Plow Used For?

A chisel plow’s job is to break up the soil and stir it around without turning it over. Chisel plows are most commonly used when the soil is rough and hard to break through. The blades are sturdy so as not to easily break when encountering tough chunks of earth or small rocks. 

How Deep Should You Chisel Plow?

According to AG Web Farm Journal, chisel plows usually plow no deeper than eighteen inches, but most commonly are set to plow between eight and twelve inches.

Since the job of the plow is to loosen the topsoil and not turn over the earth, there is no real need to go deeper than a foot and a half. The blades of the chisel plow are short and do not accommodate deeper plowing. 

What Is the Difference Between a Chisel Plow and a Cultivator?

Chisel plows are tillage tools used first when preparing a field for agricultural use and tend to sport heavier frames and plow blades with wider spacing between each blade. Chisel plows also leave any unwanted material such as weeds that are dug up behind.

Cultivators are slightly lighter in weight and are used after the chisel plow has been applied to the soil. They gather up any weeds and unwanted trash to remove it from the sowing field for a clean space to plant. 

How Fast Should a Chisel Plow Be Pulled?

According to a study performed by Al-Suhaibani and Ghaly found in the AMerican Journal of Agricultural and Biological Sciences, the optimum speed to pull a chisel plow is approximately four miles per hour. Although chisel plows can safely be pulled at eight or nine miles per hour, the faster rate may result in undesirable deep slashes into the farmland instead of an evenly smooth breaking up of the topsoil. 

How Much Horsepower Does It Take to Pull a Chisel Plow?

In order for your tractor to properly pull a chisel plow, you need twelve to fifteen horsepower per blade of the plow. Most chisel plows average seven to twelve blades so a tractor with at least eighty horsepower is required for using a chisel plow. 

Can You Turn Over Soil With a Chisel Plow?

In short, no, a chisel plow will not turn over the soil so that it’s ready for planting. The chisel plow’s function is simply to tear open the ground and allow air and moisture in so that the next round of tillage with different equipment such as a cultivator can prepare the field for sowing. 

Why Should You Use a Chisel Plow?

Using a chisel plow will help initially break up difficult soil and if performed season after season will also help reduce erosion of the land. Although it doesn’t fully prepare the soil for planting, it helps aerate the earth and allow moisture introduction so that when other equipment is used to turn it over, the soil is more compatible to being farmed.

How Wide Is a Chisel Plow?

The width of a chisel plow depends on how many blades are attached to the frame. The three most common types of chisel plow include seven, nine, or eleven blades. A seven blade chisel plow is typically fourteen feet wide, a nine blade chisel plow is eighteen feet wide, and an eleven blade chisel plow measures about twenty-two feet wide. 

What Time of Year Should You Use A Chisel Plow?

According to the University of Nebraska at Lincoln’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, most chisel plowing is done in the fall once crops are harvested. While the chisel plow disturbs the leftover scraps of the crops, it does not collect them.

The act of stirring them up, however, allows for faster decomposition and a more suitable field for sowing in the spring. Chisel plowing can also be performed again in the spring to break up any newly sprouted weeds and prepare the soil for secondary tillage by a cultivator. 

What Type of Soil Benefits Most from Chisel Plowing?

Chisel plowing is best for soil that has been compacted due to frequent harvesting. The soil benefits from chisel plowing by allowing oxygen and moisture to penetrate through the top layers and create a healthier topsoil for the next season’s round of crops.

Without chisel plowing, compacted soil may not allow for seeds to be sown at the proper depths and roots may use unnecessary energy trying to push through impacted soil and obtain unavailable oxygen. 

Should You Chisel Plow at an Angle?

Setting the blades of your chisel plow to a twenty or thirty degree angle, instead of straight down, will help mix the topsoil more efficiently. If you are looking for a deep plow, you may not have the luxury of setting the blades at an angle, but for shallow chisel plowing, plowing at an angle is optimal especially for fields that are frequently sown and harvested. 

What Is the Difference Between a Chisel Plow and a Ripper?

While both the chisel plow and the ripper help churn up the topsoil to prevent erosion and allow for air and moisture to penetrate the upper layers of the soil, a chisel plow tends to be lighter in weight and digs at a shallower depth than the ripper.

Rippers generally begin to dig at depths of fifteen to eighteen inches with a maximum capacity of more than thirty inches compared to the typical digging range of a chisel plow at eight to twelve inches and maximum capacity of eighteen inches.