What Is a Chisel Plow?

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  • Written By: Anna Harrison
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 01 October 2019
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When planting is done on a large scale, a chisel plow is an indispensable piece of gardening equipment. It has many uses and is usually made from heavy duty forged steel. This types of plow can be quite economical or very expensive and may be adjusted to till at different levels.

The main purpose of a chisel plow is to loosen and till the soil without turning it over. It can be set to till the soil quite deeply and, in fact, can loosen the earth to 18 inches (46 cm) or more. Instead of turning the soil over like most plows, the chisel plow leaves sod, rocks, and weeds, on the top. They are not incorporated into the freshly tilled ground, which is said to help prevent a soil crust from forming and increase productivity and water infiltration.

Soil should be dry when using a chisel plow for the first time in the spring. To achieve the best results, it should not be used on wet, soggy soil. When the soil is dry, the chisel plow is effective at breaking up hard pans and compacted ground. It is also very able to break up strong root systems and hard packed clay soil.


Chisel plows resemble cultivators with wheels, but they have shanks and points that are very heavy. Most plows have between three and seven shanks, and about 10 horsepower is required for each of the shanks. The frames are also much heavier than those on standard plows. Chisel plows need to be pulled by a heavy duty tractor that has good traction and plenty of power.

These plows have been around since the 1930s when they were created as an alternative way to till the soil while preventing erosion. Traditional plows leave a flat surface that promotes runoff which in turn carries away valuable topsoil. Chisel plows leave grooves on the surface which allows rain water to sink in, thereby retaining more moisture in the soil.

When buying a chisel plow, both new and used products should be checked out. There are good deals on used plows that are in excellent condition and still have many years left in them. Most of these plows are meant to last a lifetime, and new plows have the high price that goes with quality equipment. Larger plows can cost well over $10,000 U.S. Dollars (USD) new, but the same ones in used condition can be found for much less.


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