Vertical tillage tools are gaining in popularity in Pennsylvania as well as other parts of the country.

A rough classification divides them into ‘rolling’ and ‘deep’ vertical tillage tools. Rolling vertical tillage tools include such ones as the Great Plains TurboTill, the Case-IH True Turbo, the Salford Residue Tillage Specialist, and the Landoll Vertical Tillage.

These tools come with different features. Most of them have two staggered gangs of coulters whereas the Landoll has slightly curved disk blades. Some have rigid gangs which can only run straight (e.g. Turbo Till), while others have gangs of coulters or blades that can be adjusted to different angles the direction of travel.

There are many different types of attachments to smoothen soil, such as tine harrows, rolling baskets, and rolling harrows to bust clods, level and smoothen soil. Vertical tillage tools are meant to leave most residue on the soil surface for erosion protection and do little soil disturbance. They are primarily meant to size residue and mix it minimally with soil to speed up decomposition.

Producers have started to become interested in these tools because of some problems getting good stands after high-residue corn crops. Some producers are using these tools to establish cover crops by broadcasting them on the soil prior to running the vertical tillage machine.

There are many different options of using rolling vertical tillage tools. There is the danger of running them in low-residue situations (e.g. after soybeans, corn silage or small grain straw harvest) in which case the residue cover would be decreased below the critical threshold of 30%.

Running vertical tillage in the spring does nothing to help speed up decomposition before planting. Producers should evaluate the different tools on their own merit and consider if they fit in their operation.

Penn State is offering a demonstration of different rolling vertical tillage tools at the Field Diagnostic Clinic at Rock Springs next week (July 19-20).