Ask an Agronomist
Is Vertical Tillage My Best Tillage Option This Spring?
Feb 14, 2013
Question: I’m thinking about going to vertical tillage this spring; is there anything I need to be thinking about before I do that?
Answer: Before you take that step, I’d encourage you and other farmers to evaluate any tillage you might have done last fall. Because it was really dry, guys got into their fields with chisel plows and inline rippers and got a lot of tillage work done. Now, everyone is thinking about leveling things up this spring once they can get back into the field. One thing we want to make sure everyone is comfortable with is did they do their fall tillage properly? A lot of interest and attention have been drawn to vertical tillage, and a lot of new tools are being sold out there to level up fields. But you need to know that if you didn’t do your primary tillage properly last fall, you’re probably not going to get the results you want with vertical tillage this spring. As soon as you can get into your fields, dig where you ran your chisel plow or inline ripper to see whether you achieved good shatter from shank to shank. If you didn’t get good shatter in between those shanks and you have some firm columns out there, maybe a vertical tillage leveling tool isn’t your best answer. Running a vertical tillage tool where you don’t have good shatter is not going to set you up for a good seedbed or uniform root growth, and you may have problems with the planter bouncing across the field as well. Instead, maybe you need to go out there with a field cultivator or a disk to get things leveled up. Now, if you get out to your fields and find that you did get good shatter, then going to one of the new vertical tillage tools this spring is fine.
As the term vertical tillage becomes more mainstream, clarifying what makes a practice fit this system is key.
Ken Ferrie reminds farmers that vertical tillage is a system—not just one tool. Switching your tillage system can be a challenge, but using better management for your soil can lead to higher yields.