What Tool Do I Need for Vertical Tillage?

Published on: 08:23AM Nov 05, 2013

What Tool Do I Need For Vertical Tillage?

Question: What kind of tool do I need for vertical tillage?

Answer:  There is no single tool that works for vertical tillage.  One of the first things I always tell farmers is that vertical tillage is a system, not a one-season tillage pass or a single tool.  It can take you a couple of years to transition to a true vertical tillage system. Before you buy any tool you need to think about what you’re trying to gain from using a vertical tillage system. One of the best goals you can set is trying to achieve uniform soil density. That uniformity can help you develop a good quality seedbed, which is crucial for uniform corn emergence and high ear counts. Evaluate whether you have density layers or compaction problems in your soils.  If so, at what depth? Your answer matters because it influences the type of tool you will use to correct those problems. At 4" deep you can go in with a variety of tools to remove a density layer.  If it’s at 12" deep, though, you will need a more specific tool to accomplish that. Consider your residue needs before purchasing vertical tillage equipment. For instance, if you’re in continuous corn, you need to select a tool to get rid of rootballs and incorporate more residue.  If you have deep density layers but don’t need the residue, you can use something like a disk ripper, which is designed to go deeper than a chisel plow. If you have shallow layers and don’t need a lot of residue, then you can run a chisel plow. If you have deep density layers but need a lot of residue, you probably can go with an inline ripper type tool. On highly erodible soils, you need less aggressive tools.  Primary vertical tillage tools include chisel plows, disk rippers and inline rippers. Other tools are better suited to leveling fields, such as harrows and coulters, which prepare the final seedbed.  Whatever your final decision, make sure you consider your soil residue needs and how deep your density layers run before buying any of these tools.

Tillage: Dig Deep, Go Vertical Remember how you were told as a kid to not judge a book by its cover? That same advice applies to evaluating vertical tillage.

Key Steps in a Transition to Vertical Tillage 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 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.