When it comes to the topic of vertical tillage, nearly everyone seems to have an opinion on the practice, but there is also a heavy dose of emotion mixed in as well.

Some growers have criticized our publication for even writing about the practice, even though we devote far more space each month to topics like soil health, cover crops and residue management.

Make no mistake about it, we commend passionate no-tillers who’ve spent many years carefully building a system that works for them. These innovators are regularly honored and featured by No-Till Farmer, and this will continue to be the case. They offer encouragement for all farmers. 

Many no-tillers tell us vertical tillage will destroy all the benefits of no-till. I myself wonder how this practice might affect soil-organic matter, earthworm tunnels and soil microbial activity that has been carefully built up in long-term, no-tilled fields. I’m not aware of any research that definitively answers this question, but would sincerely invite any insights on this.

We also must acknowledge that every farm is unique. Farmers who practice no-tillage in different climates — whether it’s the Corn Belt or southern Plains or the Palouse — all have different challenges with soils, climate, crop rotations and the like. About 20% of our readers indicate that they use vertical tillage in some way on their farms, mostly for specific tasks. We think it’s important to hear why they use the practice and how they practice it within a no-till system.

Rather than pretending the topic of vertical tillage doesn’t exist, No-Till Farmer has chosen to take a leadership position on this issue. In the November edition of our quarterly Conservation Tillage Guide — which is being mailed out this week — we will offer a special report on vertical tillage.

In this 12-page report, no-tillers themselves share how they use shallow, high-speed passes with a vertical-tillage tool to size and process residue, dry out wet soils for timelier planting, incorporate cover crops and more. We also provided space for critics of vertical tillage, and our No-Till Notes columnist, Daniel Davidson, provides insight on important questions no-tillers should ask if they’re considering such a tool.

We’ll also be hosting a webinar about vertical tillage on Wednesday, Oct. 23, so you can get more information about the practice and have your questions answered. DeAnn Presley from Kansas State University will be the speaker.

What we’re really trying to do at No-Till Farmer is promote discussion and education about this topic so farmers can make informed decisions. Maybe vertical tillage is right for your no-till farm… maybe it’s not. Perhaps the degree of soil moved by some implements is a major concern. Either way, it’s your call to make after you weigh all the facts.

John Dobberstein,
Managing Editor
No-Till Farmer