Homemade Tool Takes On Tough Corn Residue

A $3,000 investment turned unused disc into vertical-tillage implement that’s easy on soil, but helps corn residue break down more quickly

If there's ever a need to fix washouts or ruts on Marvin and Kim Burkhart’s farm, they will need to borrow something from the neighbors.

That’s because the Leaf River, Ill., no-tillers have taken their little-used disc and turned it into a corn residue manager.

Whether it’s continuous corn or even fields where corn and soybeans are rotated, Kim Burkhart says he’s noticed in recent years that corn stalks are taking longer to break down. While he hasn’t had difficulty no-tilling corn or drilling soybeans, yet, continuous corn yields are lagging behind neighbors who chisel plow.

“We’ve never had any problem getting into the ground with either the drill or our planters, but these Bt stalks just aren’t breaking down like a natural stalk does,” Kim Burkhart says. “We are wondering if we are experiencing some type of autotoxicity problem because our neighbors who chisel plow are getting about 20 bushels more to the acre in continuous corn.

“We certainly have no intention of going back to chisel plowing, but we wondered if there was some type of compromise where we could get a little aeration and aerobic activity going for us in the soil.”

Build Your Own

Burkhart says he got the bright idea to make a vertical-tillage tool after attending the National No-Tillage Conference in 2009. Since they are only running it over 300 acres over the course of 3 days, he couldn’t justify buying a manufactured rig at about $25,000.


He found a distributor in Indiana who…

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Darrell Bruggink

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