Disc harrows

Zero sum game: disk harrows vs. other tillage machinery 

Disk harrows (stubble breakers) are one of the most popular tillage implements in many countries. Their main task is stubble breaking, intensive mixing of soil and crop material. However, an experienced farmer is not limited to one type of implement. Usually, there is a unit for any occasion in the fleet of agricultural machinery. In modern agriculture, stubble breakers, tine harrows, ploughs, subsoilers, and rollers are actively used for tillage. Let's compare the work of a disk harrow with other types of machinery and understand which unit is preferable in which specific case.   

Disk harrow vs. seedbed cultivator

The disk harrow chops crop residues well and intensively mixes them with the soil, which improves the decomposition process. The working tools of the cultivator only mix, but do not chop the crop material. In some cases, during spring seedbed preparation, the disk harrow can dry out the soil, so in dry regions, it is better to choose a less intensive implement, e.g., the very same cultivator. After all, the difference between these units is that the disk harrow cultivates the soil more intensely and turns the layers to the side, and the cultivator cultivates the field without turning the layer. In addition, cultivators cannot cope with a large amount of crop residues after harvesting large-stemmed crops.

It is true that both units are used in seedbed preparation. They destroy weeds, break the surface crust, loosen the soil. However, the cultivator works at large depths, and the characteristic feature of the stubble breaker, as we have already mentioned, is the turning of the layer, which distinguishes this harrow from other types of machinery.

Moreover, considering the financial aspect, the disk harrow is more expensive, but it consumes less fuel. The cultivator is cheaper, but it consumes more fuel. 

Disk harrow vs. tine harrow

Spring tine harrows have working tools in the form of tines. They are used for early spring harrowing of the soil in order to break the surface crust and destroy weeds.  This type of machinery does not work as intensively as disk harrow. However, the mulch accumulation is among its advantages. If the disk harrow is best incorporating crop residue, then the tine harrow distributes that crop residues evenly across the field and shows better mulch accumulation. This pair has slightly different principles of operation. The tine harrow combs out light stem residues and weeds rather than cuts the stubble. Therefore, it is not suitable for stubble breaking in a field with a large amount of stubble. 

In terms of cost-efficiency, disk harrows are more efficient, as fuel consumption is significantly lower than for the spring harrows. It is more difficult for tine working tools to till the soil. Moreover, the tractor consumes more fuel due to increasing traction resistance.    

Disk harrow vs. plough

Disk harrows do not turn the soil so much or cut weeds as compared to ploughs. The plough, after all, belongs to the units for deep tillage. The stubble breaker and plough can work effectively when coupled. If the forecrop stubble is broken in a timely manner, the quality of ploughing with the plough improves, and the field surface becomes even. However, it is not recommended to use a plough in arid fields, since ploughshares will only turn over large balls of earth and nothing more. 

Disk harrow vs. subsoiler

Obviously, the subsoiler is used for deep loosening of the soil after harvesting or for seedbed preparation of the stubble or mulched field surface. The average tillage depth of popular models is 25-45 cm. The unit works according to the subsoil technology, does not turn the arable layer and does not keep crop residues on the field surface. The subsoiler effectively fights the plough pan and protects the soil from erosion. Therefore, if a farmer does not have such a problem as a plough pan, but the task is in resource-saving seedbed preparation and main tillage, a disk harrow is a better choice.

Each unit effectively performs its assigned tasks. There are pros and cons in different conditions. However, disk harrows are more popular due to their versatility, cost-efficiency and a wide range of features.

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