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$3,500 v-till tool does the job

After seeing November’s vertical tillage, or v-till, articles, Karl Hess of Conestoga, Pa., shared his own experience. He purchased a used 14-foot disk harrow for $1,200 and converted it for vertical tillage in May 2008 — all for $3,300 to $3,500.

“After looking at new [v-till] models costing $30,000 to $40,000, I thought I could risk $3,500 to build an alternative,” says this “retired” farmer from his family’s Silver Run Farm.

He and his sons got the idea from the web site of CFC Distributors. The 22-inch, 13-wave blades cost $2,200, shipped from Indiana.

“I converted the disk to v-till by removing the regular blades and replacing them with the wavy coulters. The angle of the disk gangs was changed to make the blades run in line with the direction of travel,” he explains. “Then a hitch was installed to pull a conventional drill behind it.”

Key Points

Hess built his own vertical tillage tool for less than $3,500.

Extra weight was added to boost blade down-pressure.

The tool exposed less soil than a no-till drill would.


Realizing that new v-till tools were much heavier, Hess added about 1,000 pounds of weight, taken from an older skid-loader. “A lot of down-pressure is needed to push through bean stubble,” he notes.

The Hess family has been experimenting with the tool. It wasn’t used during fall of 2009 due to the wet weather. So far, the biggest use has been in drilling wheat.

Karl anticipates using it ahead of no-till corn next spring. “We can see our corn-planting window moving up seven to 10 days, from April 20 to April 10.” Earlier soil warm-up is one of the touted v-till advantages.

Less tillage than no-till?

The National Resources Conservation Service considers v-till to be tillage. “But I could use a no-till drill that would have the same coulter and same double-disk opener and closing wheel on it. Because it’s one piece and called no-till, it would be OK.”

The field planted next to where the picture was taken “was no-tilled by such a drill,” points out Hess. “In my opinion, there’s far more ground disturbance with the no-till drill than with my v-till disk and conventional drill. The no-till drill leaves much less residue on top.”

This Lancaster County farmer contends the tool penetrates better in corn ground than in soybean stubble. “Even after going through a combine chopper, soybean residue is tough to slice through,” he adds, concluding “Let the [v-till] dialogue continue.”

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BUDGET-MINDED V-TILL: This vertical tillage tool cost Hess about $3,500. Teamed with a conventional drill, it moves less soil than a no-till drill.

This article published in the December, 2010 edition of AMERICAN AGRICULTURIST.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.