Ploughing is one of the most important agricultural techniques that dates back to ancient times. By means of an agricultural tool named a “plough”, soil can be prepared for seed sowing or planting. The main purpose of ploughing consists in breaking and turning up the first layer soil in order to let soil incorporate air and bring fresh nutrients up to the surface, bury leftovers of previous crops and control weeds.

In order to obtain the ideal soil for planting, in climate regions where possible, it is recommended to start ploughing before the cold season and leave the overturned vegetation to decompose when the soil is still warm.


The plough is meant to cut, lift, turn over and partly pulverize soil. Since the plough goes through the soil, it creates long trenches named furrows.

The surface that is meant to be ploughed is divided into two parts: the “land”, that is the portion where the plough will actually work on, and the “headland”, at the both ends of the land, that is the space that the tractor have to turn around and make the return passes.


Among the different ploughing techniques, contour ploughing is worth listing. It consists in ploughing a land following its contour lines so that the ditches created run along the slope, rather than parallel to it. The perpendicular earthen ridges created by ploughing act like barriers and are particularly efficient in slowing down runoff water, thereby minimizing soil erosion.

Consulted sources:
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 1991, Chritchley & Siegert, Water harvesting, Reproduced with permission
WOCAT, 2012, Schwilch, Hessel & Verzandvoort, Desire for Greener Land, Reproduced with permission.

Additional information

Land use