What Is A Moldboard Plow

What Is A Moldboard Plow: [Overview]

The moldboard plow is an important and commonly used agricultural implement for preparing soil for planting.

This curved steel plate attached to a plowshare cuts, lifts, and turns over soil to create an improved seedbed for crops.

In this article, we will look at what a moldboard plow is, its key functions, proper plowing techniques, and the evolution of this transformative agricultural tool.

What is a Moldboard Plow?

A moldboard plow consists of a curved steel plate called a moldboard that is attached to a sharp plowshare.

As it moves through the soil, the plowshare cuts a furrow while the moldboard lifts, turns, and resets the soil.

This buries weeds, previous crop residue, and old roots while bringing fresh soil to the surface. The inversion and loosening of the soil provides an improved seedbed for planting.

The moldboard plow originated as an improvement over the scratch plow, which was just a wooden stick that scraped the ground.

The addition of the curved steel moldboard allows the plow to completely invert and mix the topsoil in a way that earlier plows could not.

[Related Post: 5 Types Of Plows For Farming]

Key Functions of the Moldboard Plow

  • Soil Pulverization – The action of the moldboard thoroughly mixes and breaks up soil clods, providing a fine and loose soil texture that is ideal for planting seeds.
  • Weed Control – Because it inverts the soil, the moldboard plow is effective at burying weed seeds and roots deep enough to prevent growth. This can reduce reliance on herbicide applications.
  • Residue Burial – Vegetative matter from previous crops is flipped and buried by the moldboard, while new organic matter is turned up, improving the soil structure.
  • Erosion Control – Burying residue helps protect soil against wind and water erosion.
  • New Ground Preparation – The moldboard plow does an excellent job of breaking up and inverting dense, never-before-tilled ground to ready it for crops.
  • Water Infiltration – The loose, granular soil texture created by plowing allows for better water penetration and drainage.

Proper Plowing Technique

There are some key techniques to ensure the moldboard plow performs well:

  • Plow depth should be set accurately, often 4-8 inches. Too shallow will not properly invert and mix the soil. Too deep can create a hardpan.
  • Plow at the right speed, around 3-5 mph, to allow the plow to properly turn the soil. Going too fast can leave furrows and clods.
  • Wait for ideal soil moisture, not too wet or dry. Very wet soil will stick and clump up. Dusty dry soil won’t invert properly.
  • Adjust equipment settings like furrow width and shin angle to suit soil conditions.
  • Perform regular maintenance and replace worn parts like shares and landsides.

Following these techniques allows the soil inversion and pulverization of the moldboard plow to work most effectively.

Evolution of the Moldboard Plow

The moldboard plow has evolved greatly over centuries of agricultural use:

  • Early Plows – One of the earliest plows was the scratch plow or ard, which was just a pole or log dragged through the dirt to break up soil. This did not actually turn the soil over.
  • Roman Plows – The Romans developed the wheeled plow in the 3rd century BC, which included a share and moldboard. This allowed the plow to cut deeper and turn soil better than prior models.
  • Medieval Plows – In the Middle Ages, heavy plows pulled by teams of oxen became common throughout Europe. These had wooden moldboards and iron shares. Their heavy weight helped them dig into dense or grassy ground.
  • 18th Century Improvements – Blacksmiths began making plows from wrought iron rather than wood in the 1700s. James Small further improved plow design in Scotland by using a vertically adjustable plowshare that allowed control of furrow depth.
  • Cast Iron Moldboards – Cast iron moldboards became popular in England in the late 1700s and began replacing wooden moldboards. The addition of the rib allowed self-sharpening of the bottom edge as soil moved across it.
  • John Deere’s Steel Plow – In 1837, blacksmith John Deere invented the first commercially successful steel plow with a seamless, polished steel moldboard that was impervious to rot and stubble accumulation. This revolutionary design marked a major advancement in plow performance.
  • Modern Technology – Modern plows use hydraulic control systems, GPS-guided autosteer to maximize precision, and heavy-duty construction materials to withstand demanding work. Recent focus has been on promoting conservation-tillage methods as well.

The moldboard plow has come a long way from its origins as a simple soil-scratching stick to become a cutting-edge and indispensable agricultural tool.

It continues to play an important role in preparing soil for planting many crops around the world.

The moldboard plow’s future will likely hold more advanced technological capabilities while preserving the core function that has served farmers for millennia.