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7 Best Garden Rotavators (2021 Review)

The best garden rotavator needs a working width of at least 30cm and a tilling depth of at least 20cm. It needs enough power to rotavate tough soil, yet be light enough to manouvre easily. If it’s got wheels, that will also help too. Cultivating soil is a common occurrence in my garden, so I’ve detailed which models I believe are the best to buy. Here’s what I recommend…

What is the Best Rotavator For Your Garden?

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Comparing The Best Garden Rotavators

Use the dropdown to sort the table by the feature that's most important to you.

  • Best For
  • Cutting Width
  • Tilling Depth
  • Power
  • Weight
  • Cable Length
  • Wheeled?
  • Power Source
  • Cost
  • Our score
  •  

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In-Depth Reviews of Our Recommended Garden Rotavators

Tacklife Electric Garden RotavatorTacklife Electric Garden Rotavator

Best garden rotavator overall

Design
Power
Ease of Use
Maneuverability
Value for Money
Overall
4.56
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Tacklife Electric Garden Rotavator review

Specifications

  • Cutting Width: 32cm - 45cm
  • Tilling Depth: 20cm
  • Power: 1500W
  • Weight: 10.2kg
  • Cable Length: 10m
  • Wheeled?: Yes
  • Power Source: Corded

If you’re looking for a rotavator that will be suitable for a range of different jobs, the TACKLIFE Electric Rotavator has an adjustable cutting width that makes it highly adaptable. Whether put to use preparing flowerbeds, borders, or tilling whole allotment patches, you can choose the ideal width for the task.

It can be quickly switched from 6 to 4 tines, with no tools required, narrowing the working width from 45 to 32 cm. Whereas many rotavators offer one standard coverage setting, having a range available means you end up finding more and more uses for this machine. The working depth is 20 cm – a good level for soil loosening and bed preparation in the garden, yard or vegetable plot.

Bringing a 1500 W copper motor to proceedings, which generates speeds of up to 380 RPM, it’s not only the versatility of this rotavator that’s impressive – there’s also plenty of power too. Whilst it can jump and bump over harder ground, in general this rotavator is more than capable of creating finely tilled soil even in clay-based areas. Plus, it does have anti-vibration handlebars to keep discomfort down even over tough terrain.

The foldable design, with collapsible handlebars, ensures space-saving storage, whilst the lightweight 10.2 kg construction makes it easy to retrieve from the shed whenever necessary.

One final thing to note: as with all mains-powered tool, there is a power cable to be mindful of; however, with this TACKLIFE rotavator, increased care needs to be taken as the black cable does not easily show up amongst the rotavated ground.

Pros

  • Can turn over soil in small garden, even without turf removed first, in 1-3 hours.
  • Copes with stony ground without jamming or sending them flying.
  • Users have commented that it isn't as loud as they expected it would be - definitely quieter than a petrol machine.
  • Price is equivalent to hiring a rotavator for the weekend.
  • Will till soil to a very fine consistency.

Cons

  • Thatch and roots can get tangled around the tines requiring them to be manually freed.
  • Bounces quite a lot, especially on hard ground.
  • The black mains cable can get quite disguised amongst the dirt.
  • Can get away from you on start-up as can only have one hand on handle.

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VonHaus Electric Wheeled RotavatorVonHaus Electric Wheeled Rotavator

Best rotavator for clay soil

Design
Power
Ease of Use
Maneuverability
Value for Money
Overall
4.38
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VonHaus Electric Wheeled Rotavator review

Specifications

  • Cutting Width: 40cm
  • Tilling Depth: 22cm
  • Power: 1400W
  • Weight: 11kg
  • Cable Length: 10m
  • Wheeled?: Yes
  • Power Source: Corded

VonHaus products frequently make their way into ‘top recommended’ lists, and for good reason. Their machines have proven themselves, over many years, to be reliable, hardworking and well designed. So, naturally, when it comes to rotavators that will make light(er) work of tough soil, it’s no surprise that this VonHaus Electric Rotavator makes an appearance.

Starting with the facts, this tiller boasts a 1400 W motor, and a 10 m long cable that gives you sufficient flexibility to move around flowerbeds and allotments. Of course, an extension cable can be attached to achieve a longer reach, just be aware of the safety considerations that come alongside using one.

The 40 cm working width and 22 cm tilling depth allow large areas to be covered quickly and there’s no doubt that this machine vastly speeds up the job compared to tilling by hand. Plus, it’s a real back-saver too.

Whether the soil in your garden is silty or clay-based, this rotavator has proven itself across a range of terrain. Even rocks and stones don’t seem to phase it, but you should be sure to wear eye protection to avoid any flying debris.

The two rear wheels allow the machine to be comfortably guided around the garden into position without catching the rotavator blades on the ground. And, being electric, it’s much lighter than a petrol model, weighing just 11 kg, so doesn’t require calling the cavalry just to get it out the shed.

Worth noting, both positively and negatively, is the sheer power of this rotavator – it doesn’t have any variable speed settings, and packs quite a punch, so does require a bit of upper-body strength to keep it under control.

Pros

  • Capable of tilling heavy clay soil.
  • Resilient enough to work through stony ground without jamming or getting damaged.
  • The reasonable cost makes it a worthwhile consideration vs. hiring a rotavator.
  • Much lighter than a petrol unit with the same power as some petrol models.
  • Can turn over a 3 x 3 m patch in around 5 minutes.

Cons

  • There's no speed control so some users have found it moves a little quickly.
  • Can bounce around and vibrate so needs a sturdy hand.
  • The tilling depth isn't adjustable so you can't use gradual increments.

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The Handy THET Electric RotavatorThe Handy THET Electric Rotavator

Best budget option

Design
Power
Ease of Use
Maneuverability
Value for Money
Overall
4.16
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The Handy THET Electric Rotavator review

Specifications

  • Cutting Width: 30cm
  • Tilling Depth: 20cm
  • Power: 800W
  • Weight: 8.5kg
  • Cable Length: 10m
  • Wheeled?: No
  • Power Source: Corded

For easily preparing flowerbeds and borders in record time, The Handy THET Electric Rotavator is an ideal size and the a 10 m cable reaches well around small/medium gardens.

With an 800 W motor, it works at a tilling width of 30 cm and depth of 20 cm, turning a lot of soil in each rotation. This 30 cm width is a well-proportioned size creating for borders in smaller gardens, helping with landscaping without tearing up too much soil.

This rotavator can manage heavier clay soil, great news for the majority of us UK residents, and will power through ground that contains roots and stones too. Of course, this is still a domestic-use rotavator as opposed to industrial standard, so it will likely struggle with roots over 5 mm in diameter.

A small amount of assembly is required, but it’s quick and easy and you’ll be able to be out rotavating away within fifteen minutes of opening the box. Plus, weighing just under 10 kg, it’s easy to get in and out of storage.

The instructions talk of pulling the rotavator backwards, so be sure to read them carefully and decide if that’s something you’re comfortable with – the mains cable obviously needs to be kept carefully out the way if using this approach.

One final thing to be aware of: some users have found that it’s best to allow the machine a chance to cool down slightly every 20 minutes or so, to avoid the thermo cut-out from getting involved.

Pros

  • Great for rotavating flowerbeds - can tackle roots up to approx. 5 mm diameter.
  • Assembly is straight forwards and only takes around 10 mins.
  • Powerful enough to till most spaces - just not thick roots or large stones.

Cons

  • Blades may get jammed if longer grass/roots get caught round them.
  • You have to take one hand off handle to turn machine on - this can make it feel a bit out of control as it jumps into life.
  • No option to choose different depths, can mean several passes are needed to break down harder ground.
  • Need to be careful where you start it up - away from sheds/walls/fences so that it does not jump into them.

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Stream Electric Garden RotavatorStream Electric Garden Rotavator

Best for small/medium gardens

Design
Power
Ease of Use
Maneuverability
Value for Money
Overall
4.26
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Stream Electric Garden Rotavator review

Specifications

  • Cutting Width: 40cm
  • Tilling Depth: 22cm
  • Power: 1500W
  • Weight: 12.7kg
  • Cable Length: 10m
  • Wheeled?: Yes
  • Power Source: Cordless

For getting jobs done quickly, the Stream Electric Garden Tiller has a large 40 cm tilling width and can work to a depth of 22 cm. Due to its size, it’s well suited to turning larger areas like vegetable patches, flower beds and lawn surfaces.

It’s equipped with six durable steel plates which stand up well against stony soil and clay-based ground. The combination of six plates, plus the considerable tilling width, means this tiller works quickly and efficiently across even large surface areas.

With a 10 m power cable, it’s possible to use this machine in a small/medium garden without an extension, but depending on the size of your space you may need to use one. This is a relatively standard length when it comes to mains cables, so if you’re set on buying an electric model, double check you can reach the area you want to till.

At 12.7 kg, this isn’t the lightest rotavator featured here, but it’s also not overly heavy. The two back wheels help with moving it around the garden, so the only time you may need to support the weight is when removing it from the shed.

In general, this Stream Electric Tiller is best suited to light-to-moderate use. It won’t make huge inroads into very dense or compacted soil, but on ground that you till annually it will easily maintain the upkeep. Plus, it can also tackle stony terrain.

Pros

  • Can cope with small roots when worked slowly.
  • Sturdy design that doesn't get damaged when it encounters rocks/stones.
  • Easy to assemble in under 15 minutes.
  • Useful for prepping a small/medium garden before laying turf.

Cons

  • Handles are not height adjustable.
  • Perhaps not suitable for ground that has not been turned within the last year or two.
  • Grass needs to be cut low before starting as it clogs up on longer grass.
  • The blades are not sharp enough to cope with weeds, so time needs to be spent clearing them from blades.

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VonHaus Electric Garden RotavatorVonHaus Electric Garden Rotavator

Best small rotavator

Design
Power
Ease of Use
Maneuverability
Value for Money
Overall
4.02
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VonHaus Electric Garden Rotavator review

Specifications

  • Cutting Width: 32cm
  • Tilling Depth: 22cm
  • Power: 1050W
  • Weight: 10.4kg
  • Cable Length: 10m
  • Wheeled?: No
  • Power Source: Corded

Great value doesn’t have to mean poor performance, as proven by this VonHaus Electric Garden Rotavator. Capable of tackling even clay-based soil, it’s certainly not afraid of hard work but it also won’t break the bank. In fact, the only thing it will be breaking are the clumps of soil in your garden!

With a 1050 W motor, powering four steel blades, this rotavator can make inroads into both undisturbed and pre-turned ground with its 32 cm tilling width. It works well across most soil types, although may require several passes to be made over harder, more compact areas. Loosening the ground slightly first can help, giving this VonHaus something to really dig its teeth into.

At 10.4 kg, this is a relatively midweight model – it’s certainly easy to manage and to get out of storage. In fact, some people keep this as a supplementary rotavator for smaller jobs as it’s much simpler to grab and prepare than a petrol machine. Unlike many other models, there are no wheels, but given how easy it is to pick up, they’re not really necessary.

In terms of safety, VonHaus have equipped this unit with an ‘overload protection’ system. It prompts the motor to cut out if the blades get stuck, damaged or loosened, stopping the motor from overheating or burning out. There’s an electric brake placed near the handle too, so you can power it down quickly if necessary.

The 10 m power cable is a standard length for mains-powered rotavators – long enough to tackle jobs in small gardens but requiring an extension cable for work in bigger areas. Be aware that the power cord is black, which can disguise itself amongst the soil, so you do need to remain vigilant not to cut it by accident.

Pros

  • Can be used on undisturbed lawn if done in several phases.
  • Stones get easily upended, easy to pick out by hand.
  • Can be stored on a shelf due to light weight.
  • Will cut through roots and brambles.

Cons

  • More difficult to use on hard, dry soil - damper ground is better.
  • Due to starting mechanism can't keep both hands on handles when starting up - can kick when starting.
  • Soil, stones and weeds can get stuck on the blades requiring them to be cleaned manually.
  • Hitting a larger stone or hard patch can cause the machine to jump
  • Quite high levels of vibration - not comfortable for a long time.

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BMC Electric Garden RotavatorBMC Electric Garden Rotavator

Best heavy duty rotavator

Design
Power
Ease of Use
Maneuverability
Value for Money
Overall
4.18
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BMC Electric Garden Rotavator review

Specifications

  • Cutting Width: 16cm - 40cm
  • Tilling Depth: 22cm
  • Power: 1400W
  • Weight: 15kg
  • Cable Length: 10m
  • Wheeled?: Yes
  • Power Source: Corded

Sometimes, lighter machines don’t quite have the power required to get through heavier ground. In those instances, it can actually be beneficial to have a rotavator with a bit more weight behind it.

For smaller gardens with difficult soil, the BMC Electric Garden Rotavator brings 15 kg of 1400 W force to proceedings, resulting in a powerful machine that doesn’t hold back.

If you’re working on very hard ground, consider soaking the earth before rotavating, and breaking the surface with a fork – if these steps are followed then this BMC rotavator shouldn’t encounter any problems.

Whether you’re tackling lawn, allotments or vegetable patches, the 6 steel tines, providing a 40 cm tilling width, will crack through the job at quite a pace.

With large wheels included, there’s no need to haul the rotavator about by hand – it can simply be wheeled to where it needs to go. Plus, when it comes to storage, the handles and wheels fold away, leaving a compact unit to place into the shed.

The main drawback to this unit is it’s weight, but if you’re after something a bit more heavy duty, this is a good model to go with.

Pros

  • Quick assembly in less than 15 mins.
  • The metal guard offers a good level of protection from flying stones/debris.
  • Works grass seed into the soil well.

Cons

  • Machine may bounce if hard soil is not partially broken up first.
  • Very powerful and requires users to have reasonable upper body strength.

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Einhell GE-CR 30 Cordless RotavatorEinhell GE-CR 30 Cordless Rotavator

Best cordless rotavator for an allotment

Design
Power
Ease of Use
Maneuverability
Value for Money
Overall
4.02
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Einhell GE-CR 30 Cordless Rotavator review

Specifications

  • Cutting Width: 30cm
  • Tilling Depth: 20cm
  • Power: 18V Lithium Ion
  • Weight: 8.2kg
  • Cable Length: n/a
  • Wheeled?: Yes
  • Power Source: Cordless

If cordless roaming is more your style, the Einhell Li-Solo Cordless Rotavator is a battery-powered tiller that won’t hold you back with trailing mains cables. Coming without batteries included, it can be used with any batteries from the Einhell Power X-Change range.

It uses two batteries at a time, and there are a choice of power strengths to choose from. As an example, 2 x 3.0 Ah batteries will give 25 minutes running time, and 5.2 Ah batteries will give 50 minutes running time.

Unlike with mains-powered models, there is no danger of potentially cutting through the cable. As a result, work is not slowed by having to be constantly mindful of cable location. Of course, the trade-off comes from having a limited run-time.

Ideally suited to use on soil which has been previously turned (last season, for example), this may not be the best rotavator for breaking into new soil. It’s extremely lightweight, at just 8.2 kg without the batteries, making it a little less capable of driving into hard ground than heavier models.

With four high-quality cultivator blades, offering a tilling width of 30 cm and depth of 20 cm, this is a great tool for tilling vegetable patches and allotments. In fact, it’s easier to use on an allotment than a corded model as there’s no need for a power supply or generator, and it’s extremely light to transport, unlike a petrol machine.

As mentioned, this Einhell rotavator is less suited to breaking up hard soil. Therefore, it’s best used on areas that get turned regularly such as an allotment.

Pros

  • Lightweight enough to be lifted and moved around a garden or allotment easily.
  • Can tackle previously worked patch of 25 m² in around 30 mins.
  • Light enough to be used by people with weaker upper body strength.
  • Assembly only requires a Phillips screwdriver and can be done in under 30 mins.
  • The handle folds down easily, and it's light, meaning unit can even be stored on shelves.

Cons

  • No adjustable handle height - can make it difficult to use at correct depth.
  • Manual power required to force it deeper into the ground.
  • Not very suitable for hard, unturned soil - better on previously worked ground.
  • Long grass and weeds can get caught around the blades requiring manual removal.
  • There's no two-step safety start up system so be careful not to leave ignition key in machine.

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Things to Know Before Buying a Garden Rotavator

We love gardening, but some aspects are back breaking work. Luckily, a rotavator takes the strain out of digging and turning soil.

Manual digging puts a strain on your lower back and arms – no matter what level of fitness you’re working with or how light your carbon pronged fork. And that’s where a garden rotavator valiantly steps in to take off the pressure.

So put down your fork and pick up a rotavator! You’ll wonder how you ever lived without one.

Here are a few things you should consider before making your purchase:

Consider Your Soil Type

You need to choose a rotavator which is suited to the soil you wish to till.

Loamy, sandy and aerated soils are the easiest to work with and require less power, but compacted clay soils need a tougher hand.

You can find out what soil type is present by running the soil through your fingers. Sandy soil will feel gritty and won’t clump together. You may even be able to see bits of sand.

Clay soil has a ‘sludgier’ feel and appearance. It will really stick together, especially when wet.

If you wish to rotavate clay soil, choose a more powerful machine like the Garden Gear Petrol Rotavator. If you have lighter soil, you don’t need as powerful a machine. The Einhell Li-Solo Cordless Rotavator may be more suitable for your needs.

Rotavator Weight

Be realistic about your strength and endurance because some of the larger machines can pull and take some heaving around. If you aren’t a fan of exercise go for a lighter rotavator.

Size of Area to Rotavate

Large gardens and sizeable allotments mean you’ll need a powerful garden rotavator just to get through the amount of space. A battery powered rotavator probably won’t last long enough to do a large garden, and a corded electric one may not reach. Large areas better suit petrol rotavators unless the soil is already crumbly and full of lovely worms that do the hard work.

Cordless vs Corded Rotavators

There are a surprising number of options when it comes to rotavators:

  • Cordless rotavators are good because there’s no danger of slicing through the cable accidentally. They allow you free roam to take the machine wherever you like. There are two options for cordless rotavators:
    • Cordless Electric Rotavators are quiet, fume free and allow you freedom of movement. They’re generally lighter than petrol models as well. However, their batteries only last 30 – 60 minutes and take between 1 – 2 hours to re-charge. As a result, they are not very suitable for large gardens as you will find you have to re-charge the battery too frequently.
    • Cordless Petrol Rotavators are powerful, efficient and long-lasting. A 1.2 L tank of petrol will last for approximately 1 hour. Afterwards you can simply re-fill the tank and continue rotavating straight away. However, they emit fumes, are noisy, and sometimes overly powerful for simple garden tasks. Consider a petrol rotavator if you have a very large garden or particularly tough soil.
  • Mains powered rotavators have the drawback of being connected to an electricity cable. This can make it harder to reach certain parts of the garden, and also creates a hazard as you may slice through it. They tend to be more powerful than cordless electric rotavators, and they have the huge advantage of never running out of charge. They are ideal if you don’t want to stop mid-job to charge or fuel your machine.

Petrol vs Electric Rotavators

  • If you choose an electric rotavator look for a long cord, its saves your temper in the long run.
  • Fuel tank size. If you’ve got a big garden or heavy soil you might choose a petrol rotavator. If so, consider the tank size. Constantly re-filling is a pain and makes the job last all day.

Desirable Safety Features

  • Safety cut-out switch. Roots, weeds, and stones will get tangled in the blades, that’s par for the course, but if you continue to rev that motor it’ll just burn out.
  • Two-point safety switch.
  • blade guard.

Appropriate Attire

  • Protect your toes purchasing some steel toe capped boots. These are not expensive and a great buy if you are using garden tools on a regular basis. They can stop a stab injury to your feet from a rotavator, spade, fork or upturned rake, and prevent slips, twists and falls too.
  • Ear defenders are a must if you have a powerful rotavator and need to use it for some time. Your ears will be ringing for days if you don’t keep them protected.
  • Safety goggles will help protect your eyes from flying debris. Rotavators and strimmers in particular throw up dust and debris that may be sharp and travelling at speed.
  • A good strong pair of gardening gloves is an essential purchase for a gardener whether you’re rotavating or not. Protect your hands against stingers, stones, and blisters. Gloves with grip also help you hold onto the rotavator which may be bouncing around and trying to get away from you.

Always respect the rotavator, never put your fingers, hair or toes near moving parts. It sounds obvious but this is a golden rule when it comes to tools. Be especially careful with your feet if blades are positioned at the rear.

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Rotavator FAQs

How Does A Rotavator Work?

Rotavators have spinning blades that break up, churn and aerate the soil.

The blades are attached to an axel or disc which is turned by the motor.

They often have wheels, but these are not to wheel the rotavator along. A rotavator will generally pull forward as it digs its teeth in the earth. Wheels help you move the rotavator into place before starting it.

What Does A Rotavator Do?

It takes most of the hard work out of digging soil. Instead of digging with a spade, a rotavator gets stuck into the earth, turning it for you.

Turning your soil will improve it. It’s particularly useful for clay and compacted soils which are heavy and soggy in winter and bake dry during summer.

Rotavating also improves drainage and you can add manure as you go.

Basically rotavators are an engine-powered garden fork (or small plough, considering how efficient they can be!).

How Do I Use A Rotavator?

Take the time to read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully before use.

  1. Check soil conditions before you begin. If it’s a wet day, soil is likely to clump in the blades – this may cause overheating or continual cut outs. If it’s baking hot, rock-solid soil will cause even the most powerful machine will struggle. Choose wisely!
  2. Before starting your machine ensure it’s away from cables, loose clothing, body part, pets, and children. Start slowly, hold onto the handles and direct it with evenly distributed weight.
  3. Don’t fight the bounce! Instead, let it move around but bring it back into line when needed.
  4. To lessen depth you can push down on the handles to raise the blades up. It’s trial and error for sure, but you’ll get the hang of it. The thought of getting out your spade will keep you on track.
  5. Walk up and down the area much like you were mowing the lawn. Let the new strip overlap the previous to ensure the soil is properly turned. Once you’ve done the whole area do it again from a right angle. This makes sure the soil is properly aerated instead of simply turned over.
  6. If you want crumblier soil go over the area again. Clods of soil will become smaller the more they are rotavated.

Should I Remove Weeds Before Rotavating?

Yes. You should definitely remove any weeds that will grow back from a chopped stem.

Weeds like creeping buttercup and bindweed are particularly troublesome in the vegetable patch. They can grow an entirely new root system from just a small, left-behind piece of stem.

If don’t de-weed before rotavating, they’ll likely return.

Should I Buy Or Hire A Rotavator?

Many DIY stores offer rotavator hire for a day or a weekend, sometimes longer. This is a good idea if you have a one-off job, but the problem is once you know how much of the hard work a rotavator does, you’ll want to use one again and the costs can mount up.

If you are clearing an area to lay a lawn go for the hiring option. If you’re using it at an allotment or in your garden to dig, clear or refresh the beds then buying one outright is better value.

You could share the cost with a friend if you don’t plan to use it every weekend.

Rotavators are one of those tools you think about buying for years, but always put off because you can manage without, and you need the digging exercise anyway, but when you own one you’ll need prising away. The amount of time and effort they save make them worth every penny.

Spend more time admiring your veggies and cooking on the BBQ this year by getting that rotavator you’ve always wanted. You won’t look back!

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Sources

  1. “Howard, Arthur Clifford (1893–1971)”Australian Dictionary of Biography – Online Edition.
  2. Terminology and Definitions for Agricultural Tillage Implements

 

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