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Should You Play The Vertical Game?

Vertical tillage improves the seedbed and root zone while keeping residue on the surface, producers say.

While no-till can take soil quality and the resulting yield benefits a long way, preexisting compaction layers and less-than-ideal seedbeds can put a ceiling — or in terms of root growth, a floor — on progress. That’s where vertical tillage might play a helpful role, users of the practice say.

“Vertical tillage is any tillage system that does not create a horizontal density layer, but instead forms cracking patterns in the soil profile,” says Napolean, Ohio, equipment dealer Paul Martin, who counts the Landoll 7130 To The Max vertical tillage tool among the offerings at his dealership.

“Examples of vertical tillage are in-line rippers without wings, coulter tillage tools, rolling harrows and spike aerators. Horizontal tillage tools are discs, field cultivators and plows.”

Conventional “horizontal” tillage implements may create horizontal compaction or density change layers in the soil.

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These density changes inhibit root growth, impacting crop standability and yields.

While no-till can help mellow the soil, no-till acres aren’t immune to compaction layers or density changes in the soil profile.

“I have one producer who has a 10-year-old no-till field that, when we tested it with a soil probe, we found it had 5 inches of soil that was like a rock and then the best ground you’d ever find below that,” says Tom Evans of Great Plains Manufacturing, which produces the Turbo-Till. “There was great soil underneath, but his crop wasn’t getting through to it.

“Vertical tillage can help no-till producers overcome that stumbling block.”

The main goal with…

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