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RSS By: Farm Journal Agronomists, Farm Journal

Have your agronomic questions answered by a Farm Journal agronomist. E-mail us directly at, and we’ll respond on this blog to provide an interactive dialogue.

What Is Your Opinion On Vertical Tillage?

May 13, 2011

Question: I’m wondering what your opinion is about vertical tillage tools such as a Summer’s super coulter? I have always believed that a disk packs the soil--does a straight blade not do the same? I am from west-central Minnesota, and we have heavy soils here.  These tools are getting more popular around here. I have been renting one because they do leave a beautiful seed bed, but is there a compaction layer from them? Trying to decide whether to buy one and give up my field cultivator.

Answer: The idea behind vertical tillage is hat the blades or coulters are not moving soil in a sideways direction. A traditional disk blade is concave and moves soil in a horizontal direction. Tools that shear the soil can create a density layer, depending on the conditions. It is common for a disk, field cultivator and moldboard plow to create a soil density layer. There are several vertical tillage tools on the market that prepare the seed bed and do not create density layers. You need to keep in mind that creating a good seed bed is still most important. You need a uniform, level seed bed in order to maintain good ear counts. Keep in mind that your primary tillage (if you’re doing any) plays a role in a vertical tillage system as well.   Your primary tillage needs to have uniform shatter under the ground while leaving the surface relatively smooth. A vertical tillage tool typically does not move as much soil as a disk, so its ability to level a rough surface is limited. I would also suggest doing some digging and analyzing root growth to see if you are being affected by soil density layers. 
This blog is provided as an interactive way for you to have your questions answered by our Farm Journal Agronomists. E-mail your nitrogen, soil fertility, soil density, planter set-up, scouting, and other questions to:
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