As a no-tiller, any form of tillage is usually a bad word and some no-tillers are adamant that any form of soil disturbance is taboo. However, there are places where some form of ‘tillage’ has its place and can add value to a no-till system. All the worms, microbes and organic matter that no-till fosters won’t always be the solution to every soil problem.
One of those problems is removing compaction. Many no-till experts will recommend checking a field for compaction before transitioning it to no-till, and if pans exist, removing them by ripping the field first. This is good advice, because no-till alone probably won’t remove this compaction layer.
Today’s large-acre farmers are also running large machines, carrying a lot of weight and trafficking fields in less than ideal conditions. While better structured no-till soils are able to resist increases in bulk density, there are limits.
Deep ripping can break up compaction and leave the surface and its residue virtually undisturbed. Of course, you have to select the right tool, proper shanks, tillage points and ground speed to keep the surface relatively undisturbed.
The other scenario that comes with trafficking under wet conditions is rutting fields with tire tracks. The best strategy is to stay out of the field until it’s fit for trafficking, but with today’s frequent and intensive rain events, wet conditions are sometimes unavoidable. Some form of light tillage is required to smooth over the ruts, and vertical tillage tools may be the…