How to plow with a moldboard plow

Written by denise brown
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How to plow with a moldboard plow
Land ploughed with a mouldboard plough. (field at early spring image by ssg from

For years the mouldboard plough was the farmer's first choice for turning the soil at the beginning of each growing season. With today's no-till farming techniques, farmers only use mouldboard ploughs for special circumstances such as ploughing up sod or trying to eradicate particularly difficult weeds. Even though the plough the farmer pulls today looks similar to old-fashioned ploughs, modern mouldboard ploughs have special plough shears and coulters to help the farmer break through the matted grasses as he turns the dirt over.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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    Prepare the Tractor and the Plow

  1. 1

    Add front end weights to your tractor to counterbalance the weight of the plough mounted on its rear end.

  2. 2

    Attach the plough to the tractor. If the plough is a fully-mounted model, you attach it to the three-point hitch, which raises and lowers it. A semi-mounted plough, which usually has more than four bottoms or moldboards, makes use of the three-point hitch as well as the tractor's hydraulic system. It uses a rear tire to help support the weight of the plough.

  3. 3

    Adjust the plough's settings, which includes the width of the furrow it will make. Plough a short distance. Make sure the plough frame sets level from front to back. Adjust the top bar of the three-point hitch if necessary to level the plough. Level the plough from side to side by using the tractor's lift arm crank.

  4. 4

    Check the settings of the coulters. They should cut through the soil in a clean line two or three inches to the left of the landslide.

  5. 5

    Perform a safety check to make sure all bolts are tight. Add grease through the grease zerks of the coulters. (See References 3)

    Use the Moldboard Plow

  1. 1

    Start your first round on a long side of the field. Lower the plough into the ground and run the tractor at a speed recommended by the plough manufacturer. Drive in a straight line so that the furrows turn evenly. If possible, use an object in the distance as a visual reference to help you keep your first line straight.

  2. 2

    Raise the plough at the end of the row in time for you to have enough room to turn. Go to the other long side of the field and plough another straight row. If the field is really big, you may need to divide it into sections.

  3. 3

    Return to the first row you ploughed. With your right wheel in the furrow left by the first pass, plough another straight row. Once the initial passes are complete, you have the furrow to use as a guide. Repeat this process until you finish ploughing the field. The furrow from the last pass, or dead man furrow, is going to be lower than the rest. You can plough over that furrow one last time to even the ground.

  4. 4

    Check periodically that the plough shears and coulters remain free of debris. If necessary, remove the debris.

Tips and warnings

  • During the first pass, the mouldboard, coulters and plough shears are going to scour or clean. If their appearance is not shiny at the end of the first row, remove any dirt or grease by hand. A properly scoured plough pulls easily.
  • Keep all warning signs in place on your plough and follow their specific directions.

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