Is Ripping Necessary With No-Till?

Deep ripping may have a place, but it isn’t the answer to yield concerns due to erosion and compaction in all no-tilled fields.

A recent report from Caterpillar indicates no-till should not be attempted in fields with excessive erosion unless the ground has been deep ripped for at least 2 years.

Yet a number of No-Till Farmer readers maintain that ripping isn’t needed in most no-tilled fields. Instead, they’d immediately no-till the ground to reduce erosion rather than waiting 2 years for deep ripping to have any impact on compaction worries.

Without a previous ripping program, the article indicates that no-till or minimum tillage systems are at risk for low yields due to poor soil structure, compaction and the resulting inability of water to soak into the subsoil.

Dave Janzen, ag research program manager with Caterpillar Inc, in Peoria, Ill., says deep-ripping will reduce the amount of water running off fields since most water can soak into the ground with any excess water flowing out through the drainage tile. Yet this isn’t usually a concern in most no-till fields.

“A deep-ripping program that leaves residue on the surface also helps increase earthworm activity, further improving water infiltration,” he adds.

While a no-till system that does little or nothing to alter soil density and structure can certainly slow erosion, Janzen is convinced that many no-tillers are losing yield to poor soil structure resulting from compaction.

A 3-year study conducted by Agri-Growth Inc. in Hollandale, Minn., and financed by Caterpillar, is looking at the impact of in-line ripping on soil density, residue management and yield with fine loamy soils. With in-line ripping, a straight shank…

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Frank Lessiter

Frank Lessiter has served as editor of No-Till Farmer since the publication was launched in November of 1972. Raised on a six-generation Michigan Centennial Farm, he has spent his entire career in agricultural journalism. Lessiter is a dairy science graduate from Michigan State University.

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