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Surface and shallow tillage

Shallow tillage – tillage to a depth of 8-10 to 16-18 cm.

Surface tillage – tillage to a depth of 8-10 cm.

Surface and shallow tillage methods include:

  • discing,
  • cultivation,
  • hilling,
  • harrowing,
  • rolling,
  • slicking,
  • leveling, and others.

Surface and shallow tillage allow preparing the soil for sowing, taking care of fallows and plants, destroying weeds and creating conditions for tillage at higher speeds and quality harvesting.


Disking[1]There is no exact analogue of the Russian concept of “лущения” in English. The closest translations: discing, stubbling [as applied to the fall application of the technique, also … Continue reading – method of soil treatment, which provides loosening, mixing, partial wrapping and cutting of weeds. Disking allows to cover a part of stubble, weed seeds, which in the wet soil give seedlings and sprouts that are destroyed by subsequent tillage. It partially eliminates pests and pathogens that live on stubble. Disking creates a loose, mulching layer of soil on the surface of the field to reduce soil moisture evaporation.

Disking of the dried up compacted soil after harvesting cereal crops creates more favorable conditions for the subsequent plowing, making it easier and preventing further drying.

Stubble dicking, which is carried out after harvesting cereals, leguminous and other crops of continuous sowing, and soil discing are differentiated. Stubble dicking with flat discs are used for disker in steppe areas, and with spherical (concave) discs in areas with sufficient moisture content. The discs are good at cutting horizontal rhizomes and shoots of roots of perennial weeds, stimulating their sprouting.

The depth of discing depends on the degree of weed infestation and species of weeds, soil moisture at the time of treatment and the preceding crop. When weed infestation by annual weeds the depth of discing is 4-5 cm, rhizomatous – up to 8-10 cm. On dried soils the working depth is increased by additional weights or by increasing the angle of attack to 30-35 °, which allows well cut and crush layers, incorporate vegetable residues and weed seeds. Stubble discing is carried out across the direction of harvesting units movement at a speed of up to 10 km/h.

Mouldboard and disc disker for discing. Mouldboard (polydisk tiller or hull) disker are light ploughs with small bodies without skimmers, allowing to carry out loosening to a depth of 18 cm with turning the soil. Such tillage is especially effective for undercutting root-shoot weeds.

Examples of the disker[2]The name of the tool used for discing. Also may be used: till-plow, breaker stubble, cleaner stubble, one-way disk, disker, harrow single(-disk), parer, disk topsoil, plow shallow, plow skim, plow … Continue reading: ЛДГ-5А, ЛДГ-10А, ЛДГ-15А.

For discing the soil clogged with rhizomatous and root-stock weeds, at cutting the turf of perennial grasses and at improvement of natural forage lands heavy disc harrows with cut blades, for example, БДТ-3, БДТ-7, БДТ-10 and polydisk tiller are used.

Heavy disc harrows well trim the weeds and turn the top layer of soil to a depth of 12-17 cm. They are used for pre-sowing tillage and in the care of bare fallow, orchards, in the system of autumn and half-fallow tillage. Their application is especially effective on heavy soils, when cutting turf of perennial grasses and fallow lands. On waterlogged soils discing replaces autumn plowing. In areas at risk of wind erosion, disking is replaced by flat-cutting or other tillage.


Cultivation is a method of continuous, pre-sowing or inter-row tillage, which provides soil crumbling, loosening, mixing, leveling the surface and trimming weeds. As a result of cultivation on the soil surface a loose layer is created, water, nutrient and air regimes are improved, soil warms up faster in spring and microbiological processes are activated. Cultivation depth is 5-12 cm, more often with simultaneous harrowing.

Continuous cultivation is carried out for pre-sowing soil preparation, during autumn tillage, for care of bare and strip fallows, in gardens. Presowing cultivation provides mineral fertilizers, meliorants, herbicides and creates a seedbed. Presowing cultivation is carried out to the sowing depth of 4-6 cm or, taking into account soil shrinkage (especially under irrigation), to a little deeper. It is carried out across the direction of plowing, diagonally across the field or across the direction of previous treatments.

Cultivators КПС-4А, КД-6, КШ-3,6А, КШУ-6 and others are used for presowing and fallow fields.

The working elements of cultivators – tines, come in different designs:

  • flat-cutting (undercutting),
  • loosening (chisel and spring-loaded),
  • needle-shaped discs,
  • rod-shaped and others.

Undercutting tines are in the form of a flat triangle (arrow tines) or a knife, put horizontally or at an angle to the cultivator’s frame (one-sided). Arrow-shaped tines are good for cutting weeds and loosening the soil to a depth of 10-12 cm, knives are better for shallow soil cultivation.

Tine cultivators cultivate mainly soft arable land.

The loosening tines are narrower in the form of a chisel, they are mounted vertically on the cultivator frame on rigid or spring stands (spring tines). The ripper tines loosen the soil intensively, but are weaker at cutting weeds. Spring tines are used for loosening and combing out roots. The combination of flat-cut tines with chisel-shaped loosening tines allows deep loosening and thorough undercutting of weeds.

Loosening of fields, occupied by crops of continuous sowing, is also carried out by rotary hoes, the working bodies of which are needle-shaped discs. As they rotate, the needles cut shallowly into the soil, destroy the crust, loosen the surface layer, pull young sprouts of weeds without damaging cultivated plants.

In areas of wind erosion, as well as in the case of non-moldboard cultivation, anti-erosion flat-cut cultivators are used, such as КПГ-2,2, КПШ-5, КПШ-9 and КПШ-11 with flat-cutting working tools. Tillage depth is 8-16 cm with simultaneous retention of up to 80-90% of stubble and crop residues. They are used for presowing preparation of the soil for winter crops and for fallow tillage at the depth of 10-16 cm in autumn. For shallow tillage of perennial grasses and fallow tillage the unit ОПТ-3-5 is used, which loosens the soil to a depth of 10-16 cm and undercuts the roots of plants.

On light soils КШ-3,6А rod cultivators with a metal rod as a working body are used. It loosens the soil without turning, levels the surface and when rotating in the opposite direction to the wheel motion, brings the stubble embedded in the legs to the surface.

Heavy anti-erosion cultivators КПЭ-3,8 and КТС-10-1 are also used for fallow tillage and pre-sowing tillage of heavy dry and compact soils. They are equipped with springy elastic tines, which during operation are vibrating and loosen compacted soil without clogging by plant residues. For creation of ridged surface these cultivators are equipped with bars of square section, which, rotating from the drive wheels at a depth of 4-5 cm, extract on the surface the incorporated stubble and trimmed weeds and level the soil.

Inter-row cultivation is carried out for loosening and undercutting of weeds in the inter-row areas of cultivated crops. In potato planting, hillers are used to cover the soil to the plants, which allows the formation of additional stems. To avoid damage to plants on both sides of the row, protective strips of 10-15 cm are left, and cultivators are equipped with special guards.For inter-row cultivation, universal cultivator-fertilizers are used, such as КРН-4,2, КРН-5,6, КОН-2,8, УСМК-5,4А, which allow introducing mineral fertilizers along with the cultivation.


Harrowing is a method of surface tillage providing crumbling, loosening and leveling the surface, creating a fine lumpy structure of the upper part of the arable layer and destroying sprouts and sprouts of weeds. It is used in the system of pre-sowing tillage and in the care of crops, fallows, pastures and perennial grasses.

Harrowing is carried out separately or simultaneously with plowing, cultivation, sowing or other methods. For example, pre-sowing harrowing is often combined with cultivation and is used to loosen and level the soil, apply fertilizers and prepare the seedbed.

Depending on the type of harrows they are divided into:

  • toothed,
  • disc,
  • springs,
  • mesh,
  • needle,
  • rotary.

Disc and toothed harrows are used for loosening heavy heavily compacted soils. Light harrows are used for seeding and crop care.

Harrowing in early spring of a field plowed in autumn and black fallow ensures loosening and leveling of the field surface. As a result, capillary bonds in the upper layer are broken, a mulch layer is created which prevents moisture evaporation, and the leveled surface promotes the uniform emergence of seedlings and plant development.

Post-sowing and pre-sowing harrowing of winter, tilled crops and perennial grasses destroys 70-80% of young weeds, breaks the surface crust, improves aeration and activates microbiological processes, especially on heavy soils. It is carried out in cereal crops before the first shoots appearing, in sugar beet crops in the phase of the first pair of true leaves, in corn crops – before the phase of 3-4 leaves.

In order not to damage sprouts, harrowing is carried out in one track during the day by light toothed, medium and reticulated harrows, for example, БЗСС-1, БСО-4А, ЗОР-0,7, etc. Heavy toothed harrows cultivate the soil to a depth of 8-10 cm, medium – to 4-6 cm, light seeded – to 2-3 cm.

The best timing for harrowing is the physical maturity of the soil with moisture content of 60-80% of the smallest moisture capacity. It is carried out across the direction of the plowing, rows of seeding or along the diagonal of the field.

In areas at risk of wind erosion in soil-protective (flat-cutting) system of cultivation use needle harrows БИГ-3 and БМШ-20. When shallow loosening and cutting turf to improve soil aeration and incorporation of fertilizers in meadows and pastures, the hinged meadow harrow БЛШ-2,3 and pasture БПШ-3,1 are used.


Rolling is a method of surface tillage providing soil compaction, crumbling of clods and partial leveling of the surface. It is carried out for pre-seeding compaction and leveling of field surface of previously ploughed or loosened soil, for better inflow of soil moisture from underlying layers and evaporation.

At moisture content decrease in loose soil below 60-70% of full moisture capacity intensive diffuse evaporation prevails which leads to water loss from 1 ha daily up to 30-40 t by physical evaporation.

Rolling is also used when the soil before sowing has not had time to settle after plowing. If this is not done, the bush node of cereal crops may remain on the surface after the soil settles, which is detrimental to the development of plants, especially winter ones.

Presowing consolidation reduces excessive looseness of the surface layer, improving its warming and providing an even seeding depth, especially of small-seeded crops: flax, clover, alfalfa, root crops, etc. Post-sowing consolidation in dry weather provides the best contact of cultivated plants seeds with a solid phase of soil, increasing capillary inflow of moisture to seeds and accelerating their germination. Thus, sprouts of cereals appear 3-4 days earlier on the rolled soil compared to nonrolled soil.

Rolling protects the soil from wind erosion. It is used to destroy the ice crust on winter crops and to sticking out of plants in early spring. As an independent method of treatment, it is used before and after sowing of crops, and in combination with other methods, such as plowing, cultivation, harrowing, spring re-plowing of fields tilled in autumn, and fallow tillage. More often rolling is carried out simultaneously with sowing, for compaction of plowed peatlands and newly developed lands, as well as before plowing of green fertilizers.

Smooth water-filled rollers, ring rollers, ring-tooth rollers, ring-spur rollers, etc. are used for compacting mineral soils. Water-filled smooth rollers, such as ЗКВГ-1,4, СКГ-2,1, СКГ-2,2 compact the soil more strongly, therefore for loosening the surface layer they are aggregated with light harrows. Ring rollers leave a somewhat ridged surface. The ring-toothed rollers, for example, ККН-2,8, КЗК-10, well level the surface of the soil, consolidate it to a depth of 7 cm, while loosening the soil to a depth of 4 cm. They are used for pre-sowing compacting, and separate sections – in combination with cultivators, sugar beet and grain seeders. Ring-spur rollers give the best results, no additional treatment is required afterwards, and a loose mulching layer is left on the surface. To break the soil crust in the crops, the КБН-3 mounted harrow rollers are used.

Rollers are used in aggregates with disker, cultivators and seeding tillage complexes ППК-7.2, ППК-8 and others.

Rotary tillage

Rotary tillage (milling) is a method of basic soil cultivation with the use of milling cutters, providing intensive loosening and thorough mixing. One pass of the rotary tillage machine allows to prepare the soil qualitatively for sowing, so milling can replace plowing, cultivation and other methods of loosening.

As a rule, it is used on deeply sodded and peaty soils to accelerate mineralization processes.

The milling unit is a drum with spring tines and knives of different shapes. The drum rotates in the opposite direction to the machine’s movement, with the tines cutting into the peat or turf and throwing them back in small pieces, where they hit the protective grid and strongly crumble without forming clumps. Conventional plowing does not allow for such rapid soil breaking.

However, rotary tillage strongly disperses the soil, so after one or two tillage milling peaty and sodded soils switch to plowing with a plow with skimmers. Milling is also used in the radical improvement of meadows and pastures.

Rotary tillage depth for root crops, potatoes and vegetable crops is 15-20 cm for cereals – 8-12 cm. Milling is an effective method for inter-row cultivation of orchards, berries and row crops.With the help of special devices for milling, ridges can be cut.

Rotary tillage is combined with other methods: the application of fertilizers, herbicides, seeding, leveling and rolling the soil surface. To do this, use a combined seeding units, such as for grain crops КА-3,6, КА-7,2, which is a combination of a milling machine and a grain seeder, КФС-3,6 and others. Milling machines can be garden (ФПШ-200, ФСН-0,9A), field (КФГ-3,6, КФ-5,4), swamp (ФБН-2, ФБН-1,5), etc.

Rotary tillage increases the field germination of seeds, for example, cereals by 15-25%. Milling the over-watered soil before sowing leads to its swamping, which reduces the field germination and yield. Therefore, it is desirable to use this method in dry years.

Long-term application of milling in field crop rotations increases the weed infestation, especially root-shoot and rhizomatous weeds.


Slicking is a method of surface tillage, which provides loosening and leveling the surface of the field. It is carried out by plume harrows consisting of a knife to remove ridges, a rake to loosen and a plume. A plume consists of interconnected metal corners and is designed to level the soil surface. Slicking is carried out in spring for pre-sowing levelling of ploughed soil surface, spring harrowing of a field ploughed in autumn, for moisture closure, soil levelling after cultivation, for care of bare fallow in summer and autumn period and in irrigation conditions. In well-structured soils slicking replaces harrowing. More often it is used before sowing of small-seeded crops – flax, sugar beet, vegetable and other crops.

Slicking is carried out by plumes, plume harrows of ШБ-2,5 type. To level and slightly compact the soil before sowing or irrigation, maloving is used. The mala is an iron-clad board or bar with a width of about 20 cm and a thickness of about 10 cm. When it moves, it shifts the ridges and clumps, partially crushing them, fills the recesses on the surface. Use a malu-leveller МВ-6,0А and levelers П-2,8А, ДЗ-603А, ППА-3,0.


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