Difference Between Plowing And Harrowing

Plowing and harrowing are both involved in preparing the soil for planting. They both involve turning the top layer of soil over, but they differ in how they do it and why. These operations cost about 30% of the total cost of crop cultivation. Contrary to the belief of the majority, there is a difference between Plowing and harrowing as these two tillage operations serve different purposes. This article explains the meaning of Plowing and harrowing, citing the difference, significance, and tools involved. Read on.

What is Plowing?

Plowing is the mechanical manipulation of land intended for plant cultivation; it is the first and most important tillage operation as it helps to loosen the soil for further soil preparation operations. The primary purpose of plowing is to turn over the uppermost soil, bringing up fresh nutrients to the soil surface, while at the same time burying debris, weeds, and crop remains to decay and become part of the soil components.

The name of the land preparation tool used for plowing operations is the Plow. A plow is a piece of farm equipment used to loosen or break up soil and turn it over so that it can be used for planting. It consists of a frame with an attachment to the frame that breaks into the ground and turns it over.

Types of Plows Used

Disc Type Plow
Disc Type Plow

There are different types of Ploughs used for tillage operation; the type of plow used is dependent on the nature of the soil structures. These types of the plow are listed below:

  • Mould Board Plow
  • Disc Type Plow
  • Rotary Plow
  • Chisel or sub-surface Plow
  • Sub Soiler Plow

Plows were traditionally drawn by draft animals such as oxen and horses; however, technology has further improved the system of land preparation, making plowing operations easier to do. Plows are now drawn by tractors. A plow may have a wooden, iron, or steel frame, with a blade attached to cut and loosen the soil. The plowing depth of the 15- 20cm range is generally adequate, and there is seldom any advantage in going deeper.

During plowing, trenches are made as the plow cuts into the soil, these trenches are called furrows. Between two furrows is an elevation of soil called ridges where crops like cassava, maize, watermelon, etc can be planted. One of the benefits of plowing is, it makes a ready-made planting medium (ridges) for planting; thus, eliminating the need or cost for making ridges. In addition, plowing also helps to incorporate crop residues into the soil to decay and serve as a source of soil microorganisms and nutrients for the plants. Introducing the crop residues also enables summer rainfall to penetrate deeper into the soil, improving the soil’s moisture.

What is Harrowing?

Harrowing is a tillage operation or activity that further breaks the soil into smaller fragments or bits for improved soil conditions such as better aeration, improved percolation, weeds and weed seeds elimination, and pest control. In conventional tillage, after the two plowing operations, leaving the soil as rough and highly coarse particles, harrowing does the job of “combing” the soil to create a smooth surface for planting. This tillage operation makes the soil smooth and neat, eliminating all forms of weak; such land is best for planting. The name of the implement for this tillage operation is called the Harrow.

Harrow is an implement for breaking up and smoothing out the surface of the soil to allow shallow cultivation in operations such as the preparation of seedbeds, covering seeds, elimination of pest nests, and destroying weed seedlings.

Types of Harrows Used

Disc harrow
Disc harrows

There are four general types of harrows;  

  • Disc harrows
  • Tine harrows (including spring-tooth harrows, drag harrows, and spike harrows),
  • Chain harrows, and chain-disk harrows.

In this way, A harrow is distinct in its effect from the plow, which is used for deeper tillage. The type of harrow used for soil preparation management depends on the harrowing operation, whether it’s intended for incorporating the crop residue or just leveling the soil structure for further planting operation. The purpose of harrowing the soil is generally to break up clods (lumps of soil) and to provide a finer soil surface finish, an improved tilt, or soil structure that is suitable for seedbed construction with the best soil condition. 

A well-harrowed soil possesses a fine, crumbled, and level surface, with a low degree of pulverization; it also removes weeds and covers seeds after sowing.

Major Difference between Plowing and Harrowing

Plowing and harrowing are two common soil preparation activities used in agriculture. While both serve to prepare the soil for planting, and both involve moving dirt, there are some key differences that make these processes distinct from one another.

Plowing involves turning over the top layer of soil and leaving it exposed. It is used to break up clumps of dirt, aerate the soil, remove weeds and old plant matter, loosen compacted layers of earth, and help seeds germinate. Plowing is also effective at breaking up compacted layers of earth such as clay or hardpan. Plowing is usuall done twice at an interval of 10 – 14 days after the first plowing.

Harrowing is carried out after plowing. Harrowing involves using an implement called that has many small teeth, often called “interrows,” which are dragged across the ground in order to break up clods, roots, rocks and other obstacles that may prevent seeds from germinating or growing properly. Harrowing is done once, it is usually done after a day after the second plowing operation.

Significance of Plowing And Harrowing in Land Preparation

Land preparation consists of two major operations, plowing and harrowing; they are also called tillage practices or operations. Plowing and harrowing of land are tillage operations that involve the mechanical pulverization of the soil to create favorable conditions for the growth of crop through two sets of operations; these operations are the foremost pre-planting operations that must be carried out prior to cultivation however, these soil preparation operations are not the same. There is a clear difference between plowing and harrowing; the purpose of these operations is different same as the tool used to carry out these operations

There are different methods of land preparation in agriculture; zero tillage, minimum tillage, and conventional tillage. The duration of plowing and harrowing in each tillage operation differs. In zero tillage, plowing and harrowing are not done at all; this method is a traditional method of tillage that requires only the use of a hoe and cutlass to till the soil before planting. In minimum tillage, plowing is done once or twice but harrowing is not done; this method aims to disturb the soil minimally; lastly, in conventional tillage, it is the combination of minimum tillage and harrowing. The land is plowed twice at an interval of two (2) weeks and harrowing is done afterward; this is the commercial system of tillage. It facilitates better soil-seed contact, easy flow of nutrients, greatly reduces weed competition for light and nutrients and improves other conditions within the soil for the best growth of the plant.

Plowing of the soil helps break the soil clods and hard compacted soil into pieces for good root development of the crop. Similarly, harrowing is that land preparation operation that helps to further break the clods of soil into smaller bits creating a well-aerated and smooth soil for cultivation. Plowing and harrowing of the soil can adversely affect the soil if not properly done as excessive tillage tends to raise the soil erodibility, causing significant soil loss to erosion. To achieve a better result for soil conservation, the depth of plowing must vary, and the tilling must be reduced and tilled only when soil moisture is within the good limit.

Benefits Of Plowing And Harrowing

 The list below is the benefits and advantages of plowing and harrowing before cultivation.

  • They create a better planting medium
  • They improve the soil structure
  • Increase soil conditions for better planting
  • Elimination of weeds and pests through harrowing during conventional tillage
  • Enhances plant yield by creating a suitable medium for growth.

Final thoughts,

Plowing and harrowing are different tillage operations in the preparation of land for crop establishment in terms of purpose and implements used. It is highly recommended to carry out these tillage operations, especially harrowing, during soil preparation for planting. The benefits of plowing and harrowing on soil suitability and plant yield cannot be overlooked.

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