What are the benefits and drawbacks of using surface tillage and harrows in farming?

The benefits of using surface tillage and harrows in farming are far-reaching. From weed control to incorporating crop residue and other organics into the soil. From soil aeration to preparing a favourable surface for seed germination and growth. 

With benefits like this, you’d expect every farmer in Australia would be out in their paddocks regularly to cultivate their soil. It’s not the case, however, and for good reason. 

In this blog, we’ll look at the benefits and drawbacks of using surface tillage equipment and harrows and how best to maximise the advantages on your farm.

Benefits of using surface tillage and harrows

There are many reasons why farmers use surface tillage equipment, such as harrows and disc chains, on their farms. These include:

  • No herbicides are needed. Herbicides are costly and can potentially damage the environment. Surface tillage is also the best way to tackle herbicide-resistant weeds like fleabane.
  • Farmers are promoting sustainable weed management and reducing the risk of an increase in herbicide-resistant weeds by controlling weeds using surface tillage instead of herbicides.
  • Reduced weed competition provides more nutrients, water, and sunlight for crops.
  • Surface tillage is a great way of incorporating crop residue and other organic matter into the soil. This, in turn, provides many benefits to the soil structure.
  • Every farmer wants to improve the aeration of their soil, and surface tillage methods are a great way of doing this. It breaks up the compacted soil surface and promotes oxygen diffusion and water infiltration.
  • Preparing the soil for sowing seeds is vital; again, surface tillage is the method many farmers use. Seeds have the best chance of germinating and establishing a strong root system by loosening the soil and smoothing it out.
  • Tillage can cause erosion; however, this is primarily a concern of deep tillage. Surface tillage can, in some cases, reduce erosion by breaking the crust of the soil and reducing moisture runoff.
  • It’s important to note that farmers can achieve multiple benefits without multiple passes of their surface tillage equipment. For example, while controlling weeds, they can also incorporate crop residues and organic matter into the soil, improving soil structure, fertility and aeration. 

Drawbacks of using surface tillage and harrows

As we implied in the introduction to this blog, while there are benefits, there can be drawbacks to surface tillage and harrows if done incorrectly or too often. These include:

  • While it can help reduce erosion in the short term, excessive surface tillage can lead to increased soil erosion over time, especially on sloping fields.
  • Frequent surface tillage can accelerate the breakdown of organic matter and decrease soil carbon levels, potentially harming soil health.
  • Surface tillage often requires heavy equipment and consumes fuel and time. This can increase production costs and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Over time, excessive tillage can lead to soil compaction, reducing root growth and water infiltration. Compacted soils can be less productive and more susceptible to erosion.
  • Intensive tillage – predominantly with deep tillage practices – can disrupt soil structure, leading to crusting, reduced water infiltration, and increased vulnerability to compaction.

While these are the general drawbacks, there can be others. For example, some surface tillage equipment is not versatile enough to be used in all soils and in all soil conditions. This can lead to expensive investments in machinery by the farmer to achieve all of their requirements.

One tool for every soil

Wouldn’t it make sense for there to be one surface tillage tool that farmers can purchase that works in all soils and in every season? A tool that’s aggressive enough to control weeds and incorporate crop residue into the soil without causing erosion or other soil issues.

Bute Discs’ range of patented disc chains can be used in any soil and any season. The reason? Their versatility. The revolutionary feature is the ability for farmers to add or remove weights from Bute Discs’ disc chains to achieve their desired cultivation depth. Adjusting weights can even be done in the field, allowing farmers to change their set-up in a short time.

It’s why we claim that our disc chains can better control depth in any soil and any season. Plus, it’s why farmers can get better results from fewer passes. Even better, Bute Discs’ range of discs can be both installed on new frames or retro-fitted to existing frames.

To find out more about Bute Discs’ disc chains – the most versatile surface tillage equipment on the market, contact Bute Discs today.

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