skimmers and trashboards fitted to the plough

Choosing between adjustable skimmers and trashboards for your plough

The single purpose of ploughing is to bury everything under the soil – if after ploughing there are pieces of what used to be on the surface visible on top of the ploughed ground you have failed to plough properly. That statement is easier to say than achieve though, and trash-free seedbed preparation is essential for successful crop production.

Two commonly used options for residue management on ploughs are adjustable skimmers and trashboards. Understanding the differences and advantages of each can help farmers make better choices about which option works best for them.

Adjustable skimmers

Adjustable skimmers are fitted as standard to most ploughs, they are designed to manage ordinary crop residue and prepare the seedbed for planting. They usually consist of a fixed shaft fitted to the beam of the plough which allows the ploughman to change the height and angle of the skimmer.

This adaptability makes them suitable for a wide range of soil conditions and tillage requirements. Adjustable skimmers work particularly well in medium to light soils and are ideal for fields with a large variation of soil conditions.

Two versions of adjustable skimmers are available: standard and extra trash skimmers also known as maize skimmers.

Maize skimmers, feature a larger skim body and a folded side – the folded side prevents long trash catching on the skimmer body and the increased size of the body helps to direct the extra trash into the furrow bottom. They are particularly effective in handling large amounts of trash commonly found in maize fields.

An adjustable skimmer
An adjustable skimmer

Pros of Adjustable Skimmers:

  • Versatility in adapting to different soil conditions and tillage needs.
  • Quick and easy adjustment system for precise settings.
  • Specialised versions like maize skimmers are designed for challenging residue conditions.
  • Better for ploughing at shallow depths

Cons of Adjustable Skimmers:

  • Increased complexity and potential maintenance requirements.
  • Higher initial cost compared to fixed skimmer models.
  • Even the maize skimmers may hold crop residue causing the plough to block.


Trashboards are slim pieces of metal which are bolted onto the top of the mouldboard. They excel in burying large amounts of surface trash, such as manure and straw, during ploughing.

They effectively cut the top off the furrow and bury it under the soil, minimizing interference with planting equipment and promoting a clean seedbed for optimal crop establishment.

This plough has trashboards and adjustable skimmers - the trashboard sits above the mouldboard.
This plough has trashboards and adjustable skimmers – the trashboard sits above the mouldboard.

The great thing about a trashboard is that it is less likely to block up a plough as it runs along the top of the mouldboard leaving clear space above it. Problems arise if the soil is light or has been lightly tilled, it can stick between the mouldboard and the trashboard.

Pros of Trashboards:

  • Effective management of surface trash and residue.
  • Promotion of organic matter decomposition and soil structure improvement.
  • Reduced interference with planting equipment.

Cons of Trashboards:

  • Limited versatility compared to adjustable skimmers, especially for shallow ploughing.
  • Potential for clogging in light soils or surfaced tilled land.
  • Increased draft requirements may affect tractor performance.

Factors to consider when choosing between trashboards and adjustable skimmers

Several factors should be considered when deciding between adjustable skimmers and trashboards:

  • Soil Type and Condition: Adjustable Skimmers are best suited for medium to light soils and fields with varying soil conditions. Trashboards are particularly effective in heavy soils where residues may be more difficult to manage due to higher moisture content and stickiness. They also excel in fields with substantial surface residue, such as those with high straw or manure content.
  • Type and Quantity of Residue: Assessing the amount and type of residue present in the field helps determine which tool will be most effective in managing it. Low residues and shallow ploughing- use an adjustable skimmer. For deeper ploughing, with lots of trash in medium to heavy land use a trashboard.
  • Depth and Intensity of Tillage: Matching the tillage requirements with the capabilities of skimmers and trashboards ensures thorough residue management and optimal seedbed preparation. It’s important to note that trashboards require the mouldboard to be full of soil; if the plough is set too shallow, they may not push the trash high enough up the mouldboard to reach the trashboard.
  • Compatibility with Existing Equipment: Ensure that the chosen option is compatible with the existing plough equipment and attachments to avoid compatibility issues during operation.

Considering these factors will help farmers decide which option may work best with their specific tillage needs and field conditions. Conducting field trials and consulting with other farmers who have first-hand knowledge can further assist in selecting the most suitable tool for residue management and seedbed preparation.