Key Steps in a Transition to Vertical Tillage

October 24, 2011 12:47 AM

Switching your tillage system can be a challenge, but using better management for your soil can led to higher yields.

When not done correctly, however, Farm Journal Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie cautions that the transition’s risk can outweigh the reward.
“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,” he says.
For example, when farmers are going from a horizontal system to a vertical system, Ferrie says 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. Of course, they may be mixing, may not be. But have to have complete shatter,” he says. “Once you’ve done that you can bring in vertical tillage harrows through in the spring and fit this down from the surface.”
A misstep in vertical tillage that Ferrie encourages farmers to consider is that vertical tillage harrow are limited in how much leveling they can achieve.
“No. 1 priority with primary vertical tillage is achieving that full width shatter,” he says. “And the vertical tillage harrow will not fix the problem.”
Ferrie says that farmers need to check the depth at which they are running the primary tillage tool to know if they are achieving their goal.
“It may be just 2” to 3” that make the difference if you are getting full width shatter or running too shallow,” he says.
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