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Interest shown in vertical tillage

By Staff | Sep 17, 2010

Visitors at the 2010 Farm Progress Show were interested in learning more about the new Verti-Go vertical tillage implement from Alamo Ag. The tillage tool, manufactured by Earthmaster, chops Bt corn stalks and buries a portion of the residue with minimal disturbance to the soil.

A DTN webinar Sept. 9 focused on one of the newest tillage methods to date – vertical tillage.

With this trend has come an onslaught of questions from producers concerning the different aspects of machinery to questions on the viability of the practice.

DTN Agronomist Daniel Davidson and Kansas State University Agronomist DeAnn Presley discussed the various aspects of vertical tillage in farming. Davidson said he’s tried methods of vertical tillage on his own crops and Presley said she is presently researching vertical tillage methods in Kansas field trials.

Vertical tillage can be used in spring and fall or in just the spring depending on one’s crop rotation.These tillage practices are used to:

Cut and resize plant residue.

Partially cover the plant residue with soil.

Break soil clods and smash residue.

Break compaction.

Aerate the soil.

Dry and warm the soil.

Blacken the soil.

Incorporate manure.

Some producers, the agronomists said, are using vertical tillage to plant cover crops.

Vertical tillage means different things to different people, Davidson and Presley said. These tillage tools are divided into two basic categories – aeration and tillage.

Vertical aeration is a form of vertical tillage, Davidson said, but the equipment lacks a gang of coulters up front that cut and size the residue. Airway tools are better at cutting and aerating the soil and do not process residue or prepare the seedbed. Aeration tools are manufactured by Aerway, Gen til, Smart til, and Curse-buster.

Vertical tillage tools include Salford RTS, Great Plains Turbo-Till and Turbo Chopper, Case IH 330 Turbo and Summers Super Coulter.

Conventional vertical tillage tools include gangs of coulters, rolling harrows and rolling baskets to size and cut residue, cover with soil, crush clods and level the seedbed while working the top 2 to 4 inches of soil.

“The best way to know what works best for you is to see these tools in action,” Davidson said. “Get to those farm shows or talk to your dealers and have them bring out models for you to see.”

The field operation of one’s equipment is important for optimal performance of vertical tillage methods, Presley said.

Speeds of 8 to 10 miles per hour need to be maintained to tie down residue into the soil. Horsepower is needed to ensure these speeds, so make sure one’s using equipment capable of pulling at this speed.

Weight: Most equipment will come with added weight for the down pressure to penetrate at 2-inch depths.

Soil conditions: Make sure the soil is dry enough and conditions are right for vertical tillage methods to work properly.

Contact Robyn Kruger at rangerob@hickorytech.net.

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