Ask an Agronomist
What Advantages Are There To Deep Tillage Or Vertical Tillage?
Oct 27, 2011
Question: Do you feel that deep tillage has any advantage? What advantage is vertical tillage?
Answer: In a conventional farming set up, tillage can certainly help set the stage for your next corn crop. If you’re using a chisel plow you need good cross shatter from shank to shank, and be careful of creating a “W” bottom, whichcan cause problems with plantability and even emergence. No matter what tillage practices you use, ear count is always the priority. If primary tillage isn’t done properly, you’ll go backwards. The depth of your chisel plow will depend on your soil and your chisel. The deeper you go the better it should look up top. Plus, roots should have an easier time penetrating the soil and following available moisture—you don’t want to create soil density layers that can cause those roots to turn and grow sideways. As for vertical tillage, there can be advantages in some farming scenarios butswitching your tillage system can be a challenge. I caution people that the transition’s risk can outweigh the reward if not done properly. I see some of the bigger hits to yield when farmers are moving from one tillage program to another without knowing that they need to be thinking about the entire system they use. For example, when farmers go from a horizontal system to a vertical system, they need to pair primary tillage with the pass in the spring to set the entire profile. With a vertical tillage system, we are using primary tillage in the fall to set the soil with complete shatter. You have to have complete shatter. Once you’ve done that you can bring vertical tillage harrows through in the spring. A common misstep in vertical tillage is that farmers don’t realize that vertical tillage harrows are limited in how much leveling they can achieve. The No. 1 priority with primary vertical tillage is achieving that full width shatter. You need to check the depth at which you are running the primary tillage tool to know if you are achieving your goal. It may be just 2” to 3” that make the difference between getting full width shatter or running too shallow.
There can be advantages in some farming scenarios butswitching your tillage system properly can be a challenge.
Use this Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, courtesy of Indiana farmer Ken Rulon, to plug in your costs to compare conventional tillage and no-till.