Practical Applications of a Rotary Hoe

09 September 2015

A rotary hoe is a versatile tool typically used for cultivating. The device can perform a variety of tasks and proficiently improves crop production, control weeds and reduces soil crusting.

Invented by Australian born Arthur Clifford Howard, the rotary hoe was patented in 1919. In 1927, Howard devised a specialized tractor for the rotary hoe. His ground-breaking invention was a huge influence in mass production of tractors with rotary hoe attachments. Today the rotary hoe is also known as a rotary plow, rotary tiller and power tiller.

As a diversified tool, the rotary hoe has many practical applications and can be hauled as an attachment or be self-propelled. Either way, the diversity of practical applications is numerous.

Fuel Efficiency

The fuel efficiency of a rotary hoe is superb. With well-maintained devices, it gets about 0.2 gallons of diesel fuel per acre, which is quite low compared to other similar equipment.

Weed Control

A rotary hoe can be used efficiently for weed control. It is especially useful when tilling has not been utilized. No-till setups allow weed germination to multiply, especially shallow and small rooted weeds. But a rotary hoe will loosen up the soil and expose the roots of the weeds.

Rotary hoes are also useful right after planting when rainfall is not sufficient enough to assimilate or activate certain herbicides. The rotary hoe helps integrate the herbicide plus it uproots any weeds before they surface.

The best time to use a rotary hoe for weed control is approximately 5 to 14 days after planting. This is when the weeds are still small and controllable. If they get too big, they can go to seed. When to use the rotary hoe also depends on the weather, the last ploughing and the seed properties.

Soil Crusting

Although rains are always welcome after you have planted seeds, heavy rainfall can lead to soil crusting. This is especially true with tilled fields that have little residue cover and soil with a lot of silt.

Soil crusting can be very damaging. It is a dense thin layer of soil that is significantly more compacted than the underlying soil. Heavy rain packs in the soil and then the quick drying cements the compact layer. This dense layer reduces the oxygen supply to seeds and interferes with the water flow. And for seedlings, it can stunt plant growth and leave it weakened or damaged. If soil crusting remains, the plant continues to struggle and eventually runs out of energy.

Rotary hoes can be utilized to break up the soil crust so plants can surface. However, timing is crucial so that seedlings are not damaged. Generally, it is best to use the rotary hoe when the soil surface has the right moisture conditions. The moisture needs to be just above field capacity. Field capacity is when the soil crumbles easily in the hand under minimal pressure and leaves a little moisture. It is the trace of moisture that lessens seedling damage. Before using the rotary hoe, you should check to makes sure that the crust is actually sealing the soil surface.


It is very important to maintain sufficient crop residue for various reasons. Appropriate crop residue lessens wind and water erosion, provides food, increases available plant moisture and improves soil conditions.

The rotary hoe covers minimal or no crop residue. It gently tosses the soil and residue on the surface. However, there are different types of rotary hoes and some are not good with handling residue. For instance, rotary hoes that are more than 20 years old cannot handle heavy or clustered-up materials like corn or soybeans. But then again, newer models do an amazing job and have a more innovative design. Many have tines that help dislodge stalks and are spaced for self-cleaning.

Lighter Compaction

Big tractors have a heavy impact on the soil and environment. Smaller tractors are the ideal choice all around. And since rotary hoes can be operated with low horsepower tractors, a variety of tasks can be accomplished. In truth, rotary hoes have very little effect on compaction.

Melbourne Mini Diggers

At Melbourne Mini Diggers we carry the Dingo Rotary Hoe which is top-of-the-line equipment. The Dingo about 150mm in virgin soil in virgin soil and has a full one metre cut. You can visibly see what you are doing because the hoeing is completed with the machine in reverse. In addition, the hoe can be operated at a speed relative to the hardiness of the soil being hoed.