A field cultivator is a tractor attachment which is used to prepare a field for planting. Field cultivators are produced by a number of companies which make farm implements, and are sold directly through dealers as well as in facilities where farm implements are sold. Sometimes, it is possible to pick up a used field cultivator at auction or through a farm sale, which can be substantially less expensive than investing in a new field cultivator.
The purpose of any cultivator is to prepare the soil for planting by digging deep into the soil to turn up and mix the topsoil. This process frees up nutrients, remove clumps and clots of soil, and aerates the soil so that roots will have room to spread. The use of a cultivator also eliminates weeds, clearing the soil to reduce competition for air, water, sunlight, and nutrients. Cultivation is classically done before any planting to prepare the soil so that the plants will be as healthy as possible.
In the case of a field cultivator, the attachment is dragged behind a tractor to work the soil. The height of the cultivator can be adjusted with hydraulics to hit the desired soil depth. In addition to working the soil, the field cultivator is also capable of working crop residue from the last crop grown on the field back into the ground. This helps to condition the soil in addition to neatening the field for planting. Field cultivators also assist with weed control, clearing the way for planting.
Some training is required to use a field cultivator successfully. The operator needs to be comfortable driving a tractor, and must be familiar with the process used to adjust the cultivator to the desired height. Operators also need to know when to cultivate, and the appropriate depth for the crop in question. On especially large farms, multiple people may be out with cultivators at the same time to ensure that the fields are prepared in time for planting.
A special type of field cultivator known as a crop row cultivator is designed to be used on the field while crops are growing. This implement cultivates between the rows only, turning the soil to remove weeds and keep the rows clear. In addition to keeping fields neat, field row cultivators also reduce resource competition by keeping weeds from overshadowing growing crops or sucking nutrients out of the soil before the crops have a chance to access them.