Three Vertical Tillage Tips for Today

July 31, 2013 07:04 AM

If you’re looking to implement vertical tillage (VT) in your soybean fields any time soon, there are several considerations that can help you get a good start in the process, says Missy Bauer, Farm Journal Associate Field Agronomist.

Here are three practical take-aways from the VT presentation she shared with farmers during the 2013 Farm Journal Soybean College in Coldwater, Mich.

Look for a tool that doesn’t move soil sideways.

If the implement you’re evaluating is moving soil in a horizontal fashion, then question its fit as a VT tool, Bauer says.

"There are a lot of different tools out there on the market claiming to be vertical tillage tools that aren’t necessarily," she notes.

One way to evaluate a tool is by looking at the coulters. Straight coulters that have little or no concave provide better quality vertical tillage. The more the blades are concave, the more they will move the soil in a horizontal fashion.

Always make sure the tool runs level, from the front to the back, in the field.

Regardless of which tool you choose for vertical tillage, be sure to implement this practice. "That’s super, super important," according to Bauer. She recommends having someone watch the tool as you work it across the field to observe whether it’s running level or not. If it’s not, make adjustments until it does run level.

"These tools aren’t as simple as a disk you drop into the ground," Bauer notes. "You have to adjust them to get them to do what you want them to do."

As you evaluate the tool’s performance in the field, bear in mind that VT tools aren’t designed to run deeply in the soil. They should run relatively shallow, no more than about 3" deep.

"We’re not trying to bury residue down deep with vertical tillage. The idea is to get the residue sized into 7- or 8-inch pieces. That will then help your planter move through the field easier at planting," Bauer says.

Decide if you want to start VT in the fall or spring.

The performance you see from a VT tool in the fall is dramatically different from what you’ll see in the spring, according to Bauer.

"You’ll get more action from a VT tool in the spring, but in the fall you get the benefit of breaking down the residue more," she explains. "I like running the tool in the spring, but that can become a workload consideration for a lot of farmers. Use the tool at the time that’s best suited for your operation and management practices."



Thank you to the 2013 Corn and Soybean College sponsors:

Agrotain, BASF, Great Plains Mfg., Novozymes, Plant Tuff, Precision Planting, SFP, Wolftrax

Catch up on full coverage of Corn College at


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