crop it is easy for one to deceive himself into thinking
that he has accomplished a great deal by turning under
60 THE OLIVER PLOW BOOK
the manure. As a matter of fact, any manure that is
spread below the roots is of little value to the plants
because if there is sufficient moisture in the ground to
raise what plant food may come from it in solution,
there will be a sufficient amount of water in the ground
to permit it to leach away, hence, the chief value of
manure as fertilizer is lost.
Another serious objection constantly happening is
that a very heavy coat of barnyard manure is applied and
turned under in such a way that nitrates form too
rapidly in the spring on account of the ammonia content
of the manure and later in the season change into un-
available forms thus destroying the influence of the
manure, leaving the remaining part dry and in a form
that is hard to dissolve. This is what our scientists
term burning the soil. This dry, insoluble form of
fertilizer at that depth in the ground interferes most
seriously with the upward trend of moisture and retards
growth to that extent.
While there is no question but that ultimately the soil
will be benefited by turning under manure at this depth
one can diminish a crop or lose it by a too zealous appli-
cation of manure at this depth, particularly if the ap-
plication is made close to planting time.
It is easily possible for a soil that contains fertility to
be plowed deep in the fall and so improperly handled the
following spring that a crop cannot grow. For this
reason if a test with the soil pots proved that there was
plenty of fertility in the soil and the crop next year
proved a failure, it naturally follows that the deep plow-
ing in the fall would not be responsible for the failure.
This is not a mere hypothesis but has happened many
times when the failure of the crop has been wrongly at-
* DEPTH OF PLOWING 61
tributed to deep fall plowing. The preparation of the
seed bed the following spring was the fault. The logic in
the reference to the preparation of fall plowed ground in
the spring is just as applicable to the deep fall plowing as
the medium depth plowing because air and moisture
must be properly proportioned the full depth of the
Another benefit that can be derived from deep plow-
ing is the eradication of weeds. Shallow plowing very
seldom does anything except to more effectively plant
weed seeds. When plowing is done to effectively
bury all vegetation and seeds deep in the ground it is
impossible for the majority of them to sprout and reach
the surface before the crop which is planted above them
can sprout and reach a good growth. This fact is due
to the peculiar nature of plant growth.
There is no reason to believe that weeds should grow
any faster than other plants unless conditions for their
growth are more favorable. This is the reason why
certain kinds of grassy weeds appear in the blue grass
lands when the^ blue grass itself is drying out from lack
of moisture. To put it another way, these grassy
weeds flourish with less moisture than blue grass does.
To get rid of weeds means to keep the ground in a con-
dition for the more favorable growth of the plant that
the farmer wishes to grow.
Deep plowing in the spring of the year puts the weed
seeds so far down with the turned surface that the
ground is cooler than that above, hence the sprouting of
the seed is retarded. If the surface soil is cultivated at
the time it should be, the surface of the ground will be
warmer by the evaporation of moisture and the crop
can be planted and receive a good start before the weeds
THE OLIVER PLOW BOOK
Plowing done in this manner deeply buries all the trash in the furrow,
leaving a clean surface for the final preparation of the seed bed. Observe
the very weedy condition at the left and the entire absence of weeds pro-
truding between the furrow slices. It is doubly essential in deep plow-
ing that all the weeds be entirely covered to prevent the formation of large
air vents from the top of the seed bed to the bottom.
can interfere, thus the weeds will start and provide food
substance for the plants. The deep fall plowing of weedy
ground will naturally result identically the same as the
spring plowing, but with this additional advantage, if
the ground is plowed sufficiently early in the fall and
enough rain falls the weeds will sprout and grow in the
fall and be killed by the winter's freezing.
When to Plow
THE reader who has carefully perused the preceding
pages has observed that fall or spring plowing is not
an academic question to be decided by debate. But
one which must be decided by every farmer.
Enough has been said to bring out the important fact
that as a rule clay soils are better plowed in the fall and
sandy soils in the spring. However, many contributing
factors such as humus, freezing, amount of rainfall,
plowing under green crops, moisture conservation and
killing insects and weeds enter the problem. No man
except the one who understands the soil under consider-
ation and purpose of plowing can give an opinion worth
As a general rule fall plowed ground can be worked
earlier in the spring than unplowed ground. Nature
has a curious habit of causing plants to grow and prosper
in certain seasons of the year. The nearer crops can be
planted to that season of growth the greater is the
prospect for a successful crop. Late and backward
springs often prevent the planting of the seed until quite
late. The fact that fall plowed ground left in a rough
state dries out much more rapidly in the spring than
unplowed ground gives the advantage of getting onto
the ground earlier in the year. This offsets in a measure,
the baneful influence of a backward spring and also
enables the farmer to do his disking and harrowing
64 THE OLIVER PLOW BOOK
oftener if necessary to put the ground in a better con-
dition of temperature for the sprouting of the seed.
Time is the determining factor. Oftentimes when
plowing should be done so as not to form clods, the
farmer is exceedingly busy at some other task, usually
harvesting or cultivating. Naturally the plowing waits.
There is always some season in the year when ground
can be plowed without the formation of clods. For this
reason those who expect to get the most out of their
plowing will take that into grave consideration. It is a
peculiar fact that plowing is usually done in certain
seasons of the year because of habit and necessity.
No one who contemplates building a house would ever
think of laying the foundation in the winter when
freezing would ruin it before the house could be built.
It is just as illogical to plow the ground when it is not in
condition for pulverization as it is to lay a foundation
in the winter, providing Nature does not have time to do
the pulverizing before the crop is planted.
This old idea of spring plowing, fall plowing, and
summer plowing will have to give way to plowing when
the ground is in proper condition for it, particularly in
the heavy types of soil, if the crop is to have the benefit
of the best start possible.
If plowing is done at the last minute, the ground is
either in first class condition for pulverization, too wet,
or too dry and hard. The chances are one in three of
finding the ground fit. Consequently, plowing cannot
be put off until spring or fall if advantage is to be taken
of right conditions for plowing.
Unfortunately it has been the habit for years and
years to put off plowing sod, cornfields, and very many
WHEN TO PLOW 65
stubble fields until spring. In other words, the bulk of
the plowing is left for spring work. This, in the light of
present day experiences, will have to be entirely reversed
or the maximum crops can never be grown.
Wet spring plowing of clay soils always gives the
crops a poor start and makes after cultivation practically
impossible for the development and liberation of plant
food, particularly if the cultivating season is dry. It is
a matter of history that most wet springs are followed
by dry summers. Wet spring plowing of sandy soils
means the leaching away of plant food elements that
should be retained for the growing crop.
The plowing of clay soils in the spring when they are
too dry and hard means plowing either a field of clods or
else turning the soil into a finely powdered condition
which becomes plastic upon the first rain. Plowing a
sandy soil when it is too dry means further escapement
of moisture. Therefore, plowing either when too wet
or too dry in the spring means a curtailment of the crop.
The following information on corn and oat growing
shows why an understanding of the crops to be grown
and the physical condition of the ground necessary to
grow these crops should be considered before plowing.
Corn requires 271 tons of water to produce one ton of
dry substance. This means 2.39 acre inches of water.
In other words, it requires 2.39 inches of water to grow
one ton of corn. It has been demonstrated that too
little or too much rainfall at flowering time is injurious
to the crop. If the corn grower expects his crop to have
this water just exactly as the plant needs it, neither too
much nor too little at any one time, he must of necessity
66 THE OLIVER PLOW BOOK
plow his ground and cultivate to keep the surplus away
from the surface, but in such shape that the plants can
draw upon it.
The illustrations on the opposite page are photo-
graphs of an experiment to bring about the value of
plowing in July for fall wheat. This land was a light,
sandy and gravelly river bottom loam poorly adapted to
small grains. The farm was situated in the northern
part of Indiana. The field treated in this manner showed
an increase of twenty per cent, over the rest of the field
which was plowed early in September in the ordinary
manner. The seeding and fertilizing over the entire field
were exactly alike.
No. 1 The field plowed on July 18. Observe the foul condition of
the unplowed ground. It is full of milk weeds and dock-
No. 2 Later in the day the disk harrow and pulverizer were called
into play to put the seed bed in shape.
No. 3 Observe that the weeds are buried deep in the furrow and the
disked and rolled section is compacted away from the unplowed section
showing that the seed bed is compact from top to bottom.
No. 4 Photograph taken June 25, the following year. The portion
of the field plowed, disked and rolled. Observe the lack of milk weeds
No. 5 A few of the wheat heads selected at random from the field
shown in No. 4. These heads produced twenty per cent, more per acre.
No. 6 The section of the field that was plowed and harrowed in the
ordinary manner. Observe the appearance of milk weeds. This section
was photographed the same day as the field shown in No. 4.
No. 7 A few of the heads selected at random from the portion of the
field shown in No. 6. Observe how much bigger and better the heads
are in No. 5.
68 THE OLIVER PLOW BOOK
Corn also requires in the vicinity of three thousand
degrees of heat to complete the crop from start to finish.
Anyone can readily see that if three thousand degrees
of heat were applied in one stroke to the field what would
happen to the corn. This amount of heat must be
scattered over the period through which the corn grows.
This heat has to do with the development of plant
food, its conservation, and the ability of the corn plant
to partake of that food. It also has to do with the
amount of moisture that falls and is consumed. Unless
ground is in physical condition for heat to work to the
best advantage in doing its labor and also to enable
plant food to develop as the plants need it a maximum
crop cannot be grown regardless of how fertile the land
A study of soil conditions has revealed that ground,
mellow and friable, to a depth of at least six inches is
required at the start for bringing about the condition
mentioned. Seven and eight inches have proven to be
better. This naturally means that this portion of the
ground cannot be full of large and coarse dead vegetation
in a half decayed form because it interferes with the
upward trend of moisture which is necessary if the corn
plant is to receive the proper amount of moisture by
capillarity for the manufacture of plant food.
It naturally follows from this that ground covered
with dead vegetation for planting corn should be plowed
deep and the vegetation buried deep in the ground so as
to interfere as little as possible with the upward trend of
It is particularly desirable in spring plowing to bury
this trash deep enough so that it will not pull out and
interfere with after cultivation. Burying cornstalks
WHEN TO PLOW 69
deep in the corner of the furrow places them where they
will do the least possible damage in the way of interfering
with capillary attraction, where they do not interfere with
after cultivation and in the right place to decay in the
soonest possible time, because the water trickling down
between the furrow slices has an easy approach to them.
The oat requires 504 tons of water or 4.45 acre inches
to grow a ton of dry substance, and approximately 2,100
degrees of heat. The plant food elements that enter
the make-up of the oat do not require so much heat for
their manufacture as those of the corn plant. This has
led to the statement that oats do not require heat and
also that oats do best in a moist and relatively cool cli-
mate. It naturally follows that if the seed bed is put in
condition for the successful manufacture and liberation
of plant food as the plants need it and the ground kept in
shape so that it will always be relatively cool during the
growth of the oat plant, one does not have to worry
about the cool climate.
We often hear that an oat crop should be planted as
early in the spring as possible and that an early frost
clipping the green plant does not do any real damage.
The real reason why scientists advocate the early
planting of oats is on account of the cool condition of the
ground necessary for the development of this plant.
Plowing for oats brings up an interesting question and
one that every oat grower can ponder upon with profit.
Is it necessary to plow for oats or can the ground be
disked and a good crop grown?
We hear diversified opinions as to the results. One
year farmers maintain that plowing increases their
70 THE OLIVER PLOW BOOK
crops abundantly and another year they contend that
disking without plowing produces a better crop. Back
of it all is this one fundamental fact the ground which
was in the proper condition for the growing of the oats
grew the best crop.
How is one to tell whether to disk or plow for an oats
crop? It is not so hard if one stops to consider two
fundamental facts. The first is that moisture keeps
the ground from readily warming in the early spring;
the second, it keeps the ground cool in the hot summer
The seed bed must be made so as to warm the ground
as early as possible in the spring and keep it cool during
the warmer weather. To do this naturally means that
the ground must be put in condition to conserve the
water and prevent the ground from running together in
a plastic condition in the spring of the year.
If the winter has been very severe and the ground full
of frost, this condition may be brought about by merely
disking in the spring because freezing expands the soil
particles, leaving them loose after thawing. If, on the
other hand, one waits until spring to plow, and the
spring should be late, he may be losing time that ought
to be consumed by the plants in growing because the
plants should get all the growth they possibly can
before the warmer days that are coming. If the ground
for oats is left cloddy, half pulverized, it cannot grow a
good crop of oats, and on the other hand, if the disking
is done when it is hard below the surface a good crop of
oats cannot be grown unless Nature is very propitious
with hard rains and cool weather, but, however the work
is done, the ground must be in the proper shape for
WHEN TO PLOW 71
percolation of the moisture downward in the spring, and
its upward trend by capillarity later in the season.
These two illustrations should show the importance
of paying the closest attention to plowing at the right
time. The same laws hold true of any crop.
Plowing to Kill Insects
L3 LOWING to kill insect pests is a most important
job for every farmer. It is the ounce of prevention
worth the pound of cure in the pest evil. 1 1 kills insects be-
fore they can do harm, and the cost is nothing. There is no
farm in the length and breadth of the land that is not
some time or other afflicted with insect pests of the most
ruinous type. One must not expect that all kinds of
insects can be killed with the plow. Most of those
which commit the greatest depredations can be eradi-
cated with the use of the plow. However, before one
can put insect pests out of business effectively he must
know and understand the life and characteristics of the
pests just exactly as he must know the life and character-
istics of plants and weeds.
The most effective methods for getting rid of pests
are to break up the breeding places, starve them to
death and make impossible the hatching of insect eggs.
These three methods can be successfully worked by the
use of the plow if the work is done at the right time
and the ground cultivated to keep down all green growth.
It is generally agreed among our entomologists that
there never would have been such inroads of insect pests
in the field had it been plowed at the right time of the
year so as to cover the trash deep in the furrow. Leav-
ing stubble, such as grain, corn stalks, cotton stalks, etc.,
on the surface affords the most propitious protection for
PLOWING TO KILL INSECTS 73
insect pests that feed upon these plants. Year after
year they continue to thrive.
All insect pests that can be killed with plowing pass
the winter either in the trash on the surface of the
ground or burrow down below the frost line. The pests
that burrow down below the frost line are usually in the
larva or grub state. Those that stay on the surface in
the trash are mostly full grown insects.
The stumpy ground, the poor covering of trash, and unevenly plowed
ground, are conditions favorable to the growth of insects.
The numberless varieties of weevils afflicting the south
usually pass the winter without food in the rubbish near
their feeding ground. They start hibernating at the
first frost and quickly come out as the weather warms
and then they return as it cools. Weevils do not lie in
green rubbish nor do they seem to possess any sort of
instinct as to how and where to go to find the cotton fields.
Strong winds blow them many miles. Standing stalks
of all kinds in infested fields furnish the most favorable
conditions for the hibernation of weevils. Obviously if
THE OLIVER PLOW BOOK
these fields are plowed, as soon as possible after the crop
has been harvested, deep enough so that the stalks will
not appear above the ground and the surface of the field
kept clean there is not much opportunity for a weevil to
survive in that place. All the neighbors doing this kind
of plowing, cutting down weeds and grass in the fence
corners and burning them, seeing to it that the trash
and surface vegetation near the cotton fields have all
been burned, aid very materially in reducing the boll
An entirely different sort of plowing is necessary to
get rid of the white grub. The white grub is lazy, that
is he will stay on the surface of the ground as long as he
Contrast this field and plowing with that shown on page seventy -three.
The thorough covering of cotton stales and the mellow condition of the
soil mean that this farmer is giving his crop the best start possible.
PLOWING TO KILL INSECTS 75
can and gradually work his way downward as the
weather gets cooler. The white grub lives for the most
part in timothy meadows. The question that confronts
the farmer is whether he wants to use the meadow for
pasture in the fall, plow the ground the following spring
and run chances of having the grubs destroy his corn, or
plow to get the grubs. After they have attained their
full growth they are nothing more or less than the
common May beetle or June bug.
These four white grubs were found in a square foot of timothy sod.
When anyone learns their characteristics it is a comparatively easy
matter to keep them from doing a great amount of harm.
The time to plow to thoroughly get rid of white grubs
is when the grubs begin to bury themselves in the
ground. Plowing the ground at that period and turning
all the hogs, chickens and turkeys into the field to feast
on these grubs will rapidly diminish their number. If
the plowing is done late enough frost helps in the killing.
The proper remedy for getting rid of the Hessian fly
is first to plow immediately after harvest, burying the
stubble as deep in the ground as possible and to keep
the surface of the ground well cultivated so as to elimi-
76 THE OLIVER PLOW BOOK
nate lumps and clods to produce a finely compacted and
moisture conservation seed bed. This process destroys
all volunteer plants which may grow and furnish a
means for propogating the fly. The principal step in
this process is to plow deep and cover all the trash.
The crooked furrow, if the ground is trashy, is propitious for insect
breeding. It is impossible to always plow the proper width of cut and
as a result the furrows are not laid properly to cover the trash, and keep
the ground from drying out rapidly. Trash and air vents in the ground
are good incubators for insect eggs. The two combined keep out moisture,
the greatest hinder ance to insect eggs hatching.
Cutworms, like white grubs, live in soil that has been
in grass for a number of years. Meadows infested with
cutworms should be plowed early the previous fall. The
earlier in the fall the ground is plowed the less probability
that the cutworm moths will have laid their eggs, con-
sequently the injury from cutworms the following year
will be diminished. Late fall and winter plowing is not
so effective as early fall plowing for the eradication of
PLOWING TO KILL INSECTS 77
Land infested with billbugs should always be plowed
in the late summer or early fall. Plowing at this time
breaks up the winter lodging of the bugs. A study of
the life of billbugs shows that they also live on many
different types of grasses. Therefore, it is necessary for
the eradication of the billbugs to plow infested grass
fields lying next to the other ground.
These instances are citations to show the necessity for
studying the habits and f characteristics of insect life
before one can successfully combat it with the use of
the plow. The loss that is sustained by farmers on
account of the destruction of such bugs as the boll
weevil, white grub, wireworm, grasshopper, Hessian fly,
cutworm, army worm, etc., is estimated by some authori-
ties in excess of five billion dollars annually.
To kill some of these insects it is necessary to plow the
ground while other very important tasks occupy the
attention of the farmer. The necessity for a means to
do this work at the proper time arises. The solution of
the problem lies in the means the farmer has in his hands
for doing this work when the time comes.
A great deal has been said about crop rotation for the
control of insect pests. All this is good but the first
thing in the eradication of bugs of any kind whatsoever
is to plow the ground thoroughly, seeing to it that all
trash is buried deep, leaving none on the surface. Of
all types of insects that can be eradicated by plowing it
is far better to turn the stubble under immediately after
the crop has been harvested than to burn it. All of this
trash represents a vast amount of fertility that has been
taken from the soil, and is much better for the ground
if it can be put back as humus. The best and most
THE OLIVER PLOW BOOK
Cultivating orchards helps to faeef> the farm rid of many bad insect
pests that hibernate in such places during the winter as well as keeping
the weeds and grass from consuming plant food that should be utilized
by the trees in developing good fruit. When we learn to keep weeds
down and trash burned on all parts of the farm our insect troubles will
begin to disappear.
effective time to bury trash for the eradication of bugs