Cultivating the Soil in May

JMcCombie

Joined June 2012

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Color/colour digital painting by J. McCombie.
The farmer prepares the land to plant the fall wheat crop.
Tillage is the agricultural preparation of soil by mechanical agitation of various types, such as digging, stirring, and overturning and is often classified into two types, primary and secondary. There is no strict boundary between them so much as a loose distinction between tillage that is deeper and more thorough (primary) and tillage that is shallower and sometimes more selective of location (secondary). Primary tillage such as ploughing tends to produce a rough surface finish, whereas secondary tillage tends to produce a smoother surface finish, such as that required to make a good seedbed for many crops. Harrowing and rototilling often combine primary and secondary tillage into one operation.
“Tillage” can also mean the land that is tilled. The word “cultivation” has several senses that overlap substantially with those of “tillage”. In a general context, both can refer to agriculture. Within agriculture, both can refer to any of the kinds of soil agitation described above. Additionally, “cultivation” or “cultivating” may refer to an even narrower sense of shallow, selective secondary tillage of row crop fields that kills weeds while sparing the crop plants.
A cultivator is any of several types of farm implement used for secondary tillage. One sense of the name refers to frames with teeth (also called shanks) that pierce the soil as they are dragged through it linearly. Another sense refers to machines that use rotary motion of disks or teeth to accomplish a similar result. The rotary tiller is a principal example.
Cultivators stir and pulverize the soil, either before planting (to aerate the soil and prepare a smooth, loose seedbed) or after the crop has begun growing (to kill weeds—controlled disturbance of the topsoil close to the crop plants kills the surrounding weeds by uprooting them, burying their leaves to disrupt their photosynthesis, or a combination of both). Unlike a harrow, which disturbs the entire surface of the soil, cultivators are designed to disturb the soil in careful patterns, sparing the crop plants but disrupting the weeds.
Cultivators of the toothed type are often similar in form to chisel plows, but their goals are different. Cultivator teeth work near the surface, usually for weed control, whereas chisel plow shanks work deep beneath the surface, breaking up hardpan. Consequently, cultivating also takes much less power per shank than does chisel plowing.
Small toothed cultivators pushed or pulled by a single person are used as garden tools for small-scale gardening, such as for the household’s own use or for small market gardens. Similarly sized rotary tillers combine the functions of harrow and cultivator into one multipurpose machine.
Cultivators are usually either self-propelled or drawn as an attachment behind either a two-wheel tractor or four-wheel tractor. For two-wheel tractors they are usually rigidly fixed and powered via couplings to the tractors’ transmission. For four-wheel tractors they are usually attached by means of a three-point hitch and driven by a power take-off (PTO). Drawbar hookup is also still commonly used worldwide. Draft-animal power is sometimes still used today, being somewhat common in developing nations although rare in more industrialized economies.
The XL2 Series Field Cultivator has a rigid, level left hitch with level features designed in the hitch to level the unit to the tractor draw bar height. For a floating hitch, see the QX2 Field Cultivator. The XL2 Series performs well in heavy residue conditions, and is designed for secondary tillage and seedbed preparation. Units are constructed with 3″×4″ steel tubing and are available in working widths of 25’ to 60’. Wil-Rich offer two shanks assemblies on these units, with point pressure of 120-150 and 240-300 pounds. This unit is 146" from front main frame to rear. The XL2 Series can be used for light primary soil preparation, by using the 240-300 pound point pressure shank in bean stubble.

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