Vertical Tillage: Focus On End Goals

Whether it’s processing and anchoring residue, aerating fields or removing compaction, no vertical-tillage tool performs every task.

Tillage is a bad word to most no-tillers, but farmers often differ in how they approach no-till.

Some farmers practice true no-till and never let a piece of iron touch their soil, while others use iron sparingly to manage compaction and residue.

Defining Vertical Tillage

Vertical tillage means different things to different farmers. Some see it as tilling the soil down to depths of 20 inches. Others see it as tilling the top 2 inches of soil.

In any case, all vertical-tillage tools leave residue on the surface, but cover it with some soil to tie it down and speed up decomposition.

“The main objective of using vertical tillage is to break up surface soil compaction. Or you can smooth out areas in a field with shallow 2- to 3-inch rills from water erosion or ruts and tire tracks from tractors, combines, grain carts, trucks and other equipment, says DeAnn Presley, tillage specialist at Kansas State University.

“It’s also used to help improve rainfall penetration by breaking up crusts. Another objective is to cut and size residue for easier handling, and to anchor the residue down.”

Vertical tillage used to be defined as any type of deep tillage that doesn’t create a horizontal layer and is performed with chisels, disc rippers, in-line rippers, parabolic rippers and a combination deep-tillage tools.

It was also defined by not having a shank that lifts, stirs and mixes the soil, which includes concave discs or field cultivators.

However, we generally think of vertical tillage…

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Daniel Davidson

Veteran farm advisor and agronomist Daniel Davidson no-tills near Stanton, Nebraska, and works as a private consultant.

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