Moldboard Plow FAQs (13 Questions Answered)

Moldboard plows, although simple agricultural instruments, are still used by many farmers today to help prepare the soil for sowing crops. In this article, we’ll answer some frequently asked questions concerning moldboard plows to give you a better idea of their functionality, practicality, and overall use on a farm.

What Is a Moldboard Plow Used For?

Moldboard plows are designed to cut a thin slice of topsoil and partially turn it over by scooping it up with a large flat blade. Unlike tillers that churn the earth, moldboard plows semi-mix the top layers of soil in large swathes.

This can be useful for loosening and turning over soil that has been compacted by other agricultural machinery, vegetation that needs to be dug up from the remains of the previous harvest’s crops, or weeds that can be lifted up, roots and all, from a sowing field.

When Would You Use a Moldboard Plow?

According to the University of Nebraska Lincoln’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, autumn seems to be the best time to use the moldboard plow to turn over the soil especially for those on moister side. However, there can used issues with erosion throughout the winter and spring due to lack of vegetation roots to hold the soil in place.

An alternative time to use the moldboard plow would be during the spring, but this also presents its challenges. Adding another chore to the already hectic spring schedule of a farm sowing crops is not advantageous. Moldboard plowing in the spring could also deprive the soil of needed moisture or cause clodding which would require an additional round of tillage.

What Are the Parts of a Moldboard Plow?

A moldboard plow has two blades welded to the bottom of a moldboard. The share is the bottom blade which slices parallel to the ground while the shin blade cuts perpendicular to the ground.

A piece called a landside sets opposite the moldboard to stabilize the plow as it cuts through the topsoil. The landside and the moldboard with its share and shin blades are held together by a bracket and a frog.

What Are the Different Types of Moldboard Plow?

There are four different kinds of moldboard plow and each has distinctive shape of moldboard depending on what the composition of the topsoil is being plowed. The different types are known as general purpose, stubble, sod, and slat types.

A general purpose moldboard plow has an average curvature moldboard that can tackle almost any kind of topsoil and is the most widely used type of moldboard plow. A stubble moldboard plow has a short broad moldboard with an abrupt curvature that is best used to turn over topsoil that has been previously cultivated therefore leaving behind lots of plant stubble in the soil.

A sod moldboard plow has a long moldboard with a gently sloping curvature that is best used to turn over soil with tough grasses. This type of moldboard is most commonly used for the initial clearing of an area to make a crop field.

A slat moldboard plow displays a moldboard that is broken up into various slats and is best used for sticky soils since the singular flat blades of the other types of moldboards are not as effective in that type of soil.

What Is the Difference Between a Moldboard Plow and a Bottom Plow?

The main difference between a moldboard plow and a bottom plow is the way in which the soil is turned over and the most ideal landscape in which each plow functions. A moldboard plow tends to be best utilized on more uneven ground as it rotates between dropping the soil either downhill or uphill with each upheaval.

On the other hand, a bottom plow works best on level ground and performs well with breaking into heavily compacted soils and clay.

How Deep Should You Moldboard Plow?

Moldboard plowing is optimal at digging up the top six to ten inches of soil in order to remove all plant residue including roots and turn over the soil for the next season’s crops to be sown. This is only considered primary tillage and other agricultural machinery such as cultivators and harrows will administer a secondary round of tillage to the soil.

Who Invented the Moldboard Plow?

According to the Encyclopedia of Soils in the Environment by Carter and McKyes, Thomas Jefferson invented the first moldboard plow in the late 18th century inspired by European plow designs and originally made from wood but later cast in iron.

The modern design of the moldboard plow was created by John Deere in 1837 and he perfected the machinery by creating it from self cleaning steel rather than rust potential cast iron.

Is Moldboard Plowing Bad for the Soil?

Moldboard plowing became vilified for causing massive soil erosion due to wind and water because of its capability of removing any vegetation whose root systems help keep soil together. Many farmers saw the loss of moisture in the soil which greatly affected crops.

However, moldboard plowing is not quite the taboo today that it became thirty or forty years. Other methods of mechanical tillage and application of chemical soil treatments have done just as much if not more damage to farmland soil. Relative to these techniques, the negative consequences of moldboard plowing is not quite as devastating.

How Do You Plow a Field With a Moldboard Plow?

Attach the plow to the back of your tractor and adjust the settings to be sure your furrow width is at the desired measurement. Start on the long side of the field and lower the plow blade into the ground. Pull the plow no faster than the speed recommended in the moldboard plow’s instruction manual.

Plow your field in a straight line and raise the blade when you have come to the end of the row and are ready to turn around and plow the next row. Once finished, your field should have a cleanly furrowed look of parallel rows of upturned soil.