Plows and Harrows
Preparing the soil for seeding has been an important step in farming for a very long time! As farming has changed, so have the practises farmers use. When settlers first came to Canada, they used a steel plow pulled by a strong farm animal, such as a horse or an oxen, to break the land. After they plowed, they would follow with a harrow to break up the lumps in the soil.
Photo Credit: Western Development Museum
This farmer is breaking prairie sod in 1903 with a plow.
Photo Credit: Saskatchewan History Album
This farmer is using a team of horses to pull harrows over the ground to smooth out lumps.
Summer fallow was a practice used by farmers all over Saskatchewan for several decades on dryland fields. Summer fallow is farmland that is purposely not seeded to a crop for one season. The land was still cultivated because cultivating was believed to help conserve soil moisture, improve soil nutrients, control weeds, and manage pests and diseases.
PHOTO CREDIT: WESTERN DEVELOPMENT MUSEUM
This farmer pulls a cultivator across his field with a team of two horses.
Around the 1980s, farmers realized that summer fallow caused a loss of organic matter in the soil and left the soil bare so the wind and rain blew it away (we now call this soil erosion). Research found that summer fallow did not significantly increase moisture and nutrient reserves nor control weeds any better than growing a competitive crop.
Famers generally abandoned the practice in favor of new minimum tillage techniques.
Cultivators aren’t used very often anymore because they can dry out the soil and cause it to blow around.