Vertical Tillage on Full Display at Louisville

Farmers flock around these tillage tools.

Published on: Feb 23, 2011

If there was anything hotter than vertical tillage tools at the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville at the Kentucky Exposition Center last week, I would be hard pressed to know what it might have been. The crowd at the show was large in general, but it was especially crowded around the 8 to 10 vertical tillage tools on display at the show.

I went to the show with the express assignment to learn about the latest in all things vertical. Look for a feature in the April issue of Indiana Prairie Farmer that describes what choices are out there, both in words and through pictures. What I thought would be an easy assignment turned into an all-day affair because I had to wait to talk to nearly all of the company representatives at each booth I visited. They were busy talking to customers, their bread and butter, and in at least some cases, farmers were buying machines right on the spot.

What is the appeal of vertical tillage? There appears to be a few common denominators. Nearly all of the tools are set to run in the 7 to 9 miles per hour range, which means farmers can cover the field quickly. They're billed as being good to open up the soil and allow for dry-out in reduced tillage situations in the spring so planting can happen a day or two sooner. They're also supposed to be ideal for running in the fall, especially in cornstalk fields, to begin the breakdown process and return of the residue to the soil.

They also leave significant residue behind, although that is variable from machine to machine. It can also be adjusted by how high you run the machine. Operating depth is typically suggested to be 1-2 inches, with some going a little deeper. The concept is a quick pass across the field, leaving residue sized in smaller pieces, but still covering a large percentage of the soil surface.

Some farmers not yet sold on these tools look at them and conclude they are expensive disks. What sets them apart from disks, company reps say, is the much narrower concave of blades. The type of blade is one of the distinguishing features that separate one machine from another.

Blades run anywhere from smooth with no ripples, to 32 ripples or teeth on the outside edge of the blade. Front disk gangs run from being adjustable to no adjustment on purpose—the manufacturer wants the farmer to run the machine as it's set up.

Distance between blades goes from just a few inches to several inches. And angle of the blades goes from straight to a few degrees

If you're after one of these, examine each one carefully before deciding which features best sit your operation.