What is a Rotary Hoe?

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  • Written By: D. Woods
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 15 August 2019
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A rotary hoe is a versatile cultivation tool that can be used to perform a number of tasks. This tool can effectively control weeds, decrease soil crusting and enhance crop emergence. This tool often is referred to as a rotary tiller, a power tiller or a rotary plow.

Arthur Clifford Howard of Australia is credited with being the inventor of the rotary hoe. He invented a number of models of it and eventually patented one in 1919. In 1927, Howard designed a specialized tractor that could be used with this hoe. This led to the first large-scale production of tractors with rotary hoe attachments in Australia.

The rotary hoe functions through the use of rotating blades or tines. It can be self-propelled or hauled as an attachment behind a two-wheel or four-wheel tractor. When used with a two-wheel tractor, the hoe is firmly attached and powered by the vehicle’s transmission. When used with a four-wheel tractor, the hoe is attached using a three-point hitch and driven by a power take-off.


There are many advantages of rotary hoeing. The fuel efficiency of a rotary tiller is about 0.2 gallons of diesel fuel per acre, which is a fairly low amount. Another advantage of using this device is weed control. After a crop is planted, weeds sometimes can emerge if herbicides are ineffective. The hoe works to control this by pulling up the weeds and shattering their roots. Some of the shattered weeds are buried back into the soil and lack the resources needed to emerge again.

Maintaining an ample amount of crop residue is very important during cultivation. Using a rotary hoe causes minimal disturbance to crop residue. Instead of burying crop residue, the hoe gently flips the soil and residue at the surface. The crop residue is minutely disturbed, which helps enhance infiltration and prevent erosion.

There are several brands of small rotary hoes that are used by home gardeners for domestic purposes. They typically run on gasoline rather than diesel, and both the tilling speed and the speed at which they move across the ground usually are adjustable. The depth to which the hoe tills into the ground also is adjustable. Although using these devices is much faster and much easier than tilling manually, they can be very difficult and physically exhausting to handle.


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