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Do No-Tillers Need Coulters Anymore?

These row-unit stalwarts were once essential for no-tilling. But with today’s advances in planter technology, are they still necessary?


Pictured Above: CUTTING THROUGH STALKS. For some no-tillers who plant into high levels of crop residue, coulters can be beneficial in terms of slicing through heavy corn stalks. But experts say coulters need to be kept sharp or they can actually cause hairpinning, and contribute to problems achieving even emergence.

Hailed by many as one of the critical equipment developments that made no-till possible, the use of coulters on planters has declined in popularity a great deal in the past few decades. 

In 1991, a No-Till Farmer survey showed that a vast majority of no-tillers — 94% —utilized coulters on their planters to slice through surface residue ahead of seed openers and, in some cases, work a little bit of soil as well. In fact, data from out most recent 2021 No-Till Operational Benchmark Survey indicates only about 43% of no-tillers use them today. 

Dave Dum, a planter maintenance expert with equipment dealer Binkley & Hurst, says this shift is largely due to improvements…

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Julia gerlach web

Julia Gerlach

Julia Gerlach is managing editor of No-Till Farmer. She has a lengthy background in publishing and a longtime interest in gardening and mycology. She graduated with a B.A. in music and philosophy from Alverno College in Milwaukee, Wis.

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