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Vertical-tillage interest reaches a fever pitch

"Vertical tillage is just a fad,” a neighbor said recently. “It won’t be around long.”

Funny thing about that conversation — for someone who thinks vertical tillage is “here today, but gone tomorrow,” he asked lots of questions. For a minute there, it almost seemed like he was interested in the concept himself.

Without a doubt, vertical-tillage tools were the hottest ticket at the National Farm Machinery Show. It took an entire day and lots of shoe leather to track down information on each tool on the market.

You’ll have to decide if the concept makes sense for you. As experts explain it, it’s basically moving soil vertically and not horizontally. The common denominator is running 7 to 9 miles per hour, needing 8 to 10 horsepower per foot of tool to pull it, and only going a couple of inches deep. Yet depending on the machine and how it’s set, you can leave up to 70% residue after corn.

Key Points

Vertical-tillage tools stir up interest.

Number of companies offering vertical-tillage tools expands.

Understand the concept before you select a tool.


When run in the fall, some claim it starts the release of nutrients back to the soil sooner. Others say you can get into the field earlier in the spring and help the soil “dry out and warm up” without creating soil compaction.

Here’s a rundown of each vertical-tillage tool displayed at Louisville, Ky. If any tool was omitted, it was not intentional. E-mail tbechman@farmprogress.com to be included in a later issue.

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McFarlane Reel Disk: This tool starts with ultrashallow concave disks, followed by a seven-blade, 18-inch-diameter chopping reel, followed by a three-bar harrow and a 12-inch-diameter rolling basket. The disk gang adjusts from 5 to 13 degrees. Suggested operating depth is 2 to 3 inches at speeds up to 9 mph. Available widths vary from 12 feet, 3 inches to 43 feet, 6 inches. Visit www.flexharrow.com.

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Great Plains Turbo-Chopper: New on the market is the Turbo-Chopper, a variation of the Turbo-Till Series II models. Representatives say the Turbo-Chopper allows for a “crisscross” pattern for chopping residue, yet maintains the benefits of vertical tillage. Both the Turbo-Till II and Turbo-Chopper are available in widths from 11 to 40 feet. The Turbo-Chopper replaces the second gang of blades with a different style of tillage wheel. Learn more at www.greatplainsmfg.com.

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Kongskilde introduces Verta Till: Two gangs of blades followed by a spiral roller form the heart of Kongskilde’s vertical-tillage tool. It features “special aggressive 20-inch, notched, low-concavity blades to ensure it penetrates hard ground,” representatives say. It also features walking tandems on the mainframe and wings. Current widths are 15 feet and 26 feet. Gang angles are adjustable manually to angles of 0, 4, 8, 12 and 16 degrees. Learn more at www.kongskilde.com.

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Case True-Tandem 330 Turbo: Representatives point to the turbo-blade design, which uses shallow concavity and turbo vanes to “move soil up, over and out.” How aggressive it is depends upon how deep you run it. Case claims excellent fuel efficiency compared to other types of tillage tools. Two gangs of blades are followed by rolling baskets. Current next-generation models are available in 25- and 34-foot widths. You can also get the 330 Turbo in other widths. Learn more at www.caseih.com.

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Just off the assembly line: Case IH dealers can sharpen blades on Case’s 330 vertical-tillage tool with this Robo-Sharpener just unveiled by Case IH.

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Workhorse: Several manufacturers begin with a gang of disk blades upfront. All who use a variation of the style of blade pictured here rely on it for penetration in hard ground.

This article published in the April, 2011 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.