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Tractor and Subsoiler. Mechanical Soil Cultivation

Learn how the tractor and ripper work together to cultivate large fields effectively. Discover their benefits compared to traditional tools like the plow.

by BioGrow

The tractor and ripper are two of the most widely used agricultural equipment for soil mechanical cultivation. They form a fundamental combination when working on large plots of land. And they play a crucial role in preparing the soil for cultivation.

Now, let’s see how to work the land using the tractor and ripper. We’ll focus on the peculiarities of these tools and the benefits they offer compared to traditional implements like the plow.

Why We Need Mechanical Tools for the Garden

In recent years, there has been a “back to the land” movement, with many young individuals choosing to invest in agriculture, some fortunate enough to own or have access to sizable agricultural land. While for a small home garden, manual agricultural tools are sufficient for soil preparation, managing extensive fields requires more advanced machinery.
To handle these large plots effectively, having the right agricultural equipment is essential. However, the prices of new tractors, even when on sale, can be excessive. Even used machinery may still entail a significant cost. If budget constraints are a concern, consider renting the equipment as needed.

Soil Ripping

Tractor and tiller ripper
Soil ripping, also known as scarification, involves breaking up deeper and compacted layers of the soil. This process is carried out using a ripper, also known as a “ripper” or “tiller”. This machinery, towed by a tractor, penetrates deep into the soil, causing fragmentation of the soil clods.
Unlike plowing, which turns the soil, or rototilling, which mixes it, operating with a tractor and ripper preserves the organic matter and microorganisms present in the soil. This is because the alteration of the soil profile is minimal or entirely absent with this method.
In summary, we can say that this method is gentler and more respectful of the land, especially when compared to industrial agricultural practices.

Advantages and Objectives of Soil Ripping

Soil ripping with a tractor and ripper offers several undeniable benefits:

  • Increased space for root growth
  • Improved drainage capacity
  • Enhanced permeability and aeration characteristics
  • Avoidance of plow pans, unlike plowing

The Ripper Attachment on the Tractor

In general, using a ripper requires less driving force compared to a plow. There are different types available, such as fixed-tooth or spring-tooth rippers. The depth of penetration into the soil also depends on the power of the tractor.
The ripper can go as deep as 80 cm, but if a small tractor (and a small ripper) is used, this depth is limited to 40-50 cm.
Normally, this implement is attached to the three-point hitch of the tractor and is operated by the hydraulic lift. The ripper penetrates the soil thanks to the lift’s thrust and the tractor’s forward movement.
The ripper consists of a supporting frame and forward-inclined and shaped “teeth” or “knives”. These features facilitate the deep penetration into the soil. Depending on the ripper model, the number of teeth varies. Some models have 1, 3, 5, or 7 teeth, often arranged in two intersecting rows.

Working the Soil with the Ripper

Ground before cultivation

Ground before cultivation

Let’s understand how the soil is worked when using a tractor with a ripper attachment. Let’s consider a field after the intensive cultivation of a solanaceous crop, such as eggplant.
After cleaning the field of crop residues, the soil is heavily compacted and hard. In the case of cultivation in a greenhouse, the ripper’s passage starts from the sides of the plot and closes at the center.

As seen, the soil worked with the tractor and ripper becomes loose on the surface, showing a series of small furrows, the lumpiness of which depends on the soil’s physical characteristics. The ripper’s cut creates a certain macroporosity and a certain degree of fragmentation.
The soil is now ready for the new cultivation or a resting period, depending on the case. Before the new planting, an additional refinement can be done using a rototiller or a motorized cultivator. These agricultural tools, used after ripping, are solely meant to facilitate sowing or transplanting operations or to better outline furrows.


To give you an idea of the ripper’s efficiency and the potential of a tractor, even in small to medium-sized areas, approximately 500 square meters of surface can be worked in about 30 minutes.
In conclusion, using a ripper (you can find some suitable for small tractors here), along with a tractor and some additional tools, can be an excellent investment if you’re considering starting a small agricultural business, particularly in horticulture. However, tractor prices can be relatively high, even with discounts, making it a significant expense. If your budget doesn’t allow for such an investment, the second-hand market could be a viable alternative.

Further Reading

  • JSTOR – “A System for Increasing the Rock Fracturing Capability of a Ripper” – The article discusses a system designed to enhance the rock fracturing capability of a ripper.
  • ResearchGate – “Science of deep ripping” – This paper explores the scientific principles behind deep ripping, a method used in agriculture to break up compacted soil layers.
  • Archive.org – “Ripping Frozen Ground with an Attachment for Dozers” – A report on the development of an attachment for dozers to rip frozen ground, enhancing the efficiency of construction and agricultural operations.
  • ResearchGate – “Rotary Ripper: A Possible Solution to Increase the Efficiency of Tillage Operations” – The article presents a rotary ripper as a potential solution to increase the efficiency of tillage operations.
  • Wiley Online Library – “Tractor‐related injuries: A population‐based study of a five‐state region” – A study on tractor-related injuries in a five-state region, providing insights into the causes and prevention strategies.
  • JSTOR – “A Population-Based Study of Tractor-Related Injuries” – This article focuses on tractor-related injuries, analyzing data from a population-based study to understand the prevalence and causes.

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