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Moldboard Plowing: There are Advantages

Moldboard Plowing: There are Advantages
Fall moldboard plowing isn't common anymore but there is still a case for it.

I can remember 20 some odd years ago Chris teaching me to moldboard plow.

His words were, "Moldboard plowing is an art." I believe he also said, "Leave the dead furrows to me. You'll never know where they are when I fill them in." I laughed, but danged if he wasn't right.

Twenty years later we were looking at an occasion to break those moldboard plows back out of retirement and I don't know who was more excited: Chris, with the opportunity to teach our son the "art"; our son, at learning the "art"; or me at watching the two of them work together on a dying "art"!

Taking care of the land: Burying trash and crop residue, aerating the soil, helping to control disease and pest pressure: all reasons moldboard plowing on continuous corn works in some cases.

While moldboard plowing isn't used a whole lot around here anymore, there is a time and place that it is effective. For us this was that time. I came across an article by Robert Walters, Department of Soils, North Carolina State University and these words rang true: "Choosing the right tillage tool requires that we understand what work needs to be done; what end result is desired; and, the underlying purpose of the work."

There was no date on the paper, "Technical Note 20: The Moldboard Plow," but in all honesty if doesn't matter, the words are timeless and apply to all kinds of tillage or non-tillage.

The field we moldboard plowed is in our continuous corn acreage. There are three fields on this farm, two are fairly well drained, both in soil type and tile. We chiseled those, but the third is very poorly drained and the corn has suffered from saturated, cold soils; getting yellow and sickly during extended periods of wetness.

Though plowing will not improve drainage, it will allow the soil to warm more, and by burying the residue it will help reduce disease and pest pressure.

This fall I heard the Governor of Indiana say: "I don't know anybody who cares more about the land, the air and the water quality than farmers."

I love this – it couldn't be more true. Just like in this case I couldn't imagine choosing to moldboard plow a few acres just for fun. While passing down the "art" is important, more important was the fact as a farmer Chris felt like this was the best decision for the land, our farm and the potential of the crop for next year as well as many years to come.

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