April 2018 - Sponsored by John Deere
Vertical tillage is a practice that has been around since the early to mid-1990s, but it has been much in the news recently. In fact, at a seminar at the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville, Ky., in February titled “Tillage Trends for 2018 and Beyond,” the presentations were almost entirely focused on vertical tillage.
Frontier VT1712 in corn stubble.
Generally speaking, vertical tillage is designed to size, slice, and chop after-harvest crop residue while penetrating 2 to 3 inches of soil. The sized residue is left on the surface to decompose, helping minimize erosion, enhance soil profile and leave a smooth, level surface for planting. True vertical tillage requires specialized equipment designed specifically for this practice.
So, why would vertical tillage be a practice you might consider using? It starts with your soil.
If you live in an area with a relatively thin layer of topsoil, then you have to make decisions differently than someone who lives in an area with 12 or more inches (30.5 cm) of topsoil. These two environments will probably experience different annual moisture levels, too. Areas with thinner topsoil tend be dryer overall. The average crop yields from these two environments will also be quite different, but many of the input costs will actually be similar. Seed, fertilizer, chemicals, fuel—these costs tend to be similar on a per acre basis.
So if you live in an area that is drier, has thinner topsoil, and lower average yields, vertical tillage could really work to your benefit.
Fields with thinner topsoil also tend to be dryer.
True vertical tillage equipment is designed to size, slice, and chop crop residue
while only penetrating the soil 2 to 3 inches deep.