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The Iowa Agriculturist


After a farmer had planted seeds, the battle against the weeds began. For years hand-power was used to cultivate the land to wipe out seeds. To do this, farmers used hoes usually made of iron by the village blacksmith. Corn farmers usually needed to hoe their crops four times each season. At the rate of to one acre per day, as much as six days labor per acre might be spent killing weeds.

Cultivating the soil with a hoe.

Soon inventors helped farmers cultivate. In about 1820 farmers were using single-row horse-drawn equipment. Its purpose was to loosen the soil and kill weeds. Various types of cultivators quickly followed. Some used the "shovel-plow" which fit easily between corn rows, killed the weeds, stirred the soil, and tilled the plants by throwing more earth around the newly sprouted corn. In fact, the shovel plow remained the common cultivating tool until the 1850's in Iowa and Illinois.

Horse-drawn cultivator

By the late 1860's, horse-drawn two-row cultivators with a seat for the farmer, also called a sulky, were being used in the Midwest.

From: Explorations in Iowa History Project, Price Laboratory School, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA

Photos used by permission from the State Historical Society of Iowa.

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