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Hoeing in modern day farming: General information
Hoes have been around since ancient times, commonly used in agriculture for weed control. In the past, hand held hoes were commonly used for this purpose, and whilst they are still used today on a small scale (for example gardening), rotary hoes or tillers are now common place in farming.
These days industrial sized rotary hoes are often powered by tractors and come in many different sizes and forms, ranging between 3 and 24 meters, with size varying depending on the size of land that needs hoeing. Some versions are designed to fold, so they can be transported via road more easily. Smaller rotary tillers are available for those with a smaller plots of land, for example home gardeners with a relatively large vegetable garden.
A typical rotary hoe consists of a row of wheels, with a number of sharp curved prongs attached to each wheel. These prongs break up the soil as they go over it cutting weeds. Hoes may also be used before the planting of a crop in order to till and aerate the soil, providing a loose seed bed, before the crop is sown.
Rotary hoes are usually used for large-seeded crops such as corn and soybeans as they are planted fairly deep down and their root systems develop quite quickly, however you can expect to lose around 10% of crop seedlings due to the process. Successful hoeing should be preventative and take place before weeds have had chance to root. If used successfully it can reduce or remove the need to use herbicides on a crop, which is important with the recent interest in organic produce.
Whilst the rotary hoe has been around for many years, drawn by people and animals such as horses, it was not until 1912 that Arthur Clifford Howard invented the powered rotary hoe in Australia.
There are a number of commercially available hoes and a variety of manufacturers – some are even hand-made. Some of the top name manufacturers are Carré, Gaspardo, Hatzenbichler, Kockerling, Kongskilde, Monosem and Ribouleau.