Vertical tillage a benefit to farmers

In the world of agriculture, it is important to be up-to-date and knowledgeable about the current trends and hot topics in the industry.

Today, one of the most talked about topics is vertical tillage.

Agri-View explains that vertical tillage is used to lightly till the soil and cut up residue, mixing and anchoring a portion of the residue in the upper few inches of soil while still leaving large quantities of residue on the soil surface to speed up residue decomposition.

“The best description for vertical tillage is to call it a form of mulch-till, as it generally leaves more than 30 percent residue on the soil surface, yet creates nearly full-width disturbance on the soil surface,” says DeAnn Presley, soil management specialist at Kansas State University.

But, how does vertical tillage work?

According to Farm Equipment, a set of wavy discs and/or rotating spikes on a frame enter soil vertically to a shallow depth to help level the soil surface, enhance planter/drill opener performance and improve seed placement. It works well in these applications because it doesn’t work deep in the ground; therefore, wide-working widths can be pulled across the field quickly to achieve increased work rates.

Farmers have started to use vertical tillage equipment for many reasons, namely for its advantages with crop rotations, soil conditions and field compaction.

Vertical Tillage Benefits (Ohio Farmer)

  • Manages residue In corn-after-corn rotation situations, farmers use vertical tillage to cut and size residue in the fall. A pass typically provides cutting and “fluffing” action on corn residue. This provides more soil-to-residue contact, which results in better breakdown during the winter months.
  • Prepares the seedbed When vertical tillage is applied in the spring (when planting soybeans), it can warm the soil much easier. In some instances, it can make a soybean crop advance as if it were planted seven to 10 days earlier.
  • Loosens compaction Conventional tillage equipment can create multiple compaction layers that limit root growth, especially if they are run too early in the season. Vertical tillage can accomplish the same tillage goals without causing a compaction layer.
As with any farm applications, there can be a few challenges associated with vertical tillage. For instance, if a farmer is moving from a no-tilling situation to vertical tillage, there is an extra expense because it’s a step they wouldn’t normally take. In addition, some vertical tillage equipment requires more power to operate.

When you compare these downsides to the benefits of vertical tillage, some farmers say that the benefits easily outweigh the challenges. Ultimately, it is up to farmers to determine what works best on their fields.

As more farmers begin using vertical tillage equipment in their fields, it will be interesting to hear about their experiences and how it may benefit their crops.

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