An Overview of Surface Tillage Equipment

Visit a supermarket and cast your eye over the array of vegetables you can purchase, take home and eat. Then wander through the middle aisles to see the barley, oats, cereals, flours and other grain products.

Have you ever thought about what it took to grow these vegetables and grains?

Seeds, sun and water, are obvious needs, but a vital piece of equipment is needed long before a seed is planted. What is the equipment?

Surface tillage equipment used in agriculture

The vital equipment is surface tillage equipment that cultivates a farm’s soil for planting. This equipment breaks up the soil, disturbs any weeds, loosens and aerates the soil, breaks down crop residue, and mixes organic material and fertilisers into the soil.

You can read more about the purpose of surface tillage in agriculture on the Bute Discs website.

Surface tillage, as you’d expect by the name, involves cultivating a farm’s soil to relatively shallow depths. Generally, around five to 12 centimetres. Deep tillage is a more significant cultivation. In some cases, deep tillage can involve cultivating soil to depths of 70 centimetres and even more.

surface tillage disc chain

Different types of surface tillage equipment

What are the different types of surface tillage equipment you will find on today’s farms? There are numerous alternatives, including discs, harrows and tined cultivators.


Discs, disc harrows or disc ploughs are a series of concave discs in “gangs” fitted to an axle or chain and mounted under a heavy frame. The discs are tilted backwards at an oblique angle. When used, the discs slice into the ground, returning crop residue to the soil and cultivating it as it travels behind the tractor.


A harrow is a piece of surface tillage equipment that consists of a heavy frame set with teeth or tines. When the equipment is towed by a tractor on agricultural fields, the tines plough into the soil, breaking up clods, removing weeds and covering seeds.

Tined cultivators

Tined cultivators feature a pattern of small tines that break up and knock down the larger clods of soil. Generally, they are used after deeper cultivation has been performed to better prepare the soil for the sowing of seeds.


Rotovators, as their name suggests, are machines with rotating blades. They pulverise the soil and bury weeds and crop residues aggressively. Cultivating machinery operated by hand and commonly used in home gardens is an example of a rotovator.

Peg tooth harrows

More designed for pulling by animals and small tractors, peg tooth harrows are relatively small – around 1 – 2 metres in width. They have teeth that work the soil and help to level the soil, much like a hand-held rake.

Other equipment

Other equipment for tillage soil includes mouldboard ploughs and chisel ploughs, although these are usually used for deeper soil cultivation.

Man or animals can power tillage equipment, and in some developing countries, this is still the commonly used method. In Australia, however, most tillage equipment is operated by a tractor.

Incidentally, even a hoe or rake used in the garden can be considered surface tillage equipment. While they may not be helpful over larger areas, they still essentially do the same job as discs, harrows, ploughs and rotovators

surface tillage machinery on farm

Modern surface tillage equipment

The use of modern surface tillage equipment is vital on large tracts of land. It saves farmers enormous amounts of time and allows them to cultivate even large land areas in a day.

Innovative tillage equipment manufacturers are going further. They’re continually improving and modernising tillage equipment to increase efficiency and effectiveness. Ultimately, they’re making it easier for farmers to achieve improved results.

Manufacturers like Bute Discs.

Their foray into producing tillage tools started with the dog leg harrow in 1998. It featured a hook and eye system that replaced welding.

Today’s version fits any frame a farmer may already have, new or used. It’s designed to provide maximum tillage with no damage. It’s a superior no-till or low-till option and is exceptional in erosion-prone soils.

Bute developed its first disc chain system a little over ten years after the dog leg harrow. The new versions are the Bute 625 and the Bute 850.

The 650 model has a 6.25-inch gap between discs. It also features an aggressive disc angle. This makes it perfect for weed kills, crop residue and working in the soil. The 850 model has a bigger gap between the discs. This makes it perfect for wetter soils and heavy residue soils.

One of the innovative aspects of Bute’s disc systems is that weights can be quickly added and removed. This allows farmers to tailor their surface tillage approach to their specific soil, which can change from day to day.

farmer inspecting surface tillage equipment

Modern farming equipment

Combining modern surface tillage equipment with innovative tractor technologies has enormously impacted farm efficiency.

Advancements in tractor technology in the last century have included the three-point linkage system, large pneumatic rubber tyres to replace metal tyres, diesel engines to replace engines that ran on kerosene and petrol, tractor cabs, the use of global positioning systems and even artificial intelligence.

Like manufacturers of different surface tillage equipment types, tractor manufacturers continue improving their products. Advancements that are likely to become mainstream in the next few years include autonomous tractors, smaller automated tractors, object detection capabilities, smart cabs with climate control, touchscreen operation and other features, and higher powered tractors and tractors that can be controlled via computers and smartphones.

These advancements – both in tractors and surface tillage equipment – are needed. With a growing population in many parts of the world, there’s a need for higher crop yields and greater efficiency.

Manufacturers like Bute Discs are making these advancements happen.

surface tillage equipment

Related News

Can surface tillage increase the yield and quality of crops

Can surface tillage increase the yield and quality of crops?

Can surface tillage equipment be customised to suit specific soils?

Can surface tillage equipment be customised to suit specific soils?

The use of surface tillage and harrows in organic and biodynamic farming

The use of surface tillage and harrows in organic and biodynamic farming

A True Multi-Purpose Tool: Showcased at the Wimmera Machinery Field Days

Subscribers get everything first

Sign up to our newsletter to receive industry updates, new product releases and more news from Bute Discs.