Plough - Advantages and Disadvantages

Advantages and Disadvantages

Mouldboard ploughing, in cold and temperate climates, no deeper than 20 cm, aerates the soil by loosening it. It incorporates crop residues, solid manures, limestone and commercial fertilizers along with some oxygen. By doing so, it reduces nitrogen losses by volatilization, accelerates mineralization and increases short-term nitrogen availability for transformation of organic matter into humus. It erases wheel tracks and ruts caused by harvesting equipment. It controls many perennial weeds and pushes back the growth of other weeds until the following spring. It accelerates soil warming and water evaporation in spring because of the lesser quantity of residues on the soil surface. It facilitates seeding with a lighter seeder. It controls many enemies of crops (slugs, crane flies, seedcorn maggots-bean seed flies, borers). It increases the number of "soil-eating" earthworms (endogea) but is detrimental to vertical-dwelling earthworms (anecic).

Ploughing leaves very little crop residue on the surface, which otherwise could reduce both wind and water erosion. Over-ploughing can lead to the formation of hardpan. Typically farmers break up hardpan up with a subsoiler, which acts as a long, sharp knife to slice through the hardened layer of soil deep below the surface. Soil erosion due to improper land and plough utilization is possible. Contour ploughing mitigates soil erosion by ploughing across a slope, along elevation lines. Alternatives to ploughing, such as the no till method, have the potential to actually build soil levels and humus, and may be suitable to smaller, more intensively cultivated plots, and to farming on poor, shallow or degraded soils which will only be further damaged by ploughing.

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