At least one farmer in central Indiana is confident that if he didn't run a vertical tillage tool over corn stalks 24 to 48 hours before planting, he would have set himself up for poor results on soybean emergence this spring. As it was, when the fields were planted, there was enough dry soil on top to allow the planter, equipped for no-till planting with rubber press wheels and a split-row configuration, to close the slot and leave a firm seedbed over the seed.
One field no-tilled into corn stalks a few days ago convinced him that tilling the rest, especially on soils that don't dry well, was the way to go. Although the slot closes in most places, the beans were being placed in soils in the no-till field that were still on the heavy side. In contrast, the soil was moist but not on the muddy, sticky side when he dug into rows where the vertical tillage tool had run before.
The secret was to run it fast and light, not only leaving residue, but not bringing up wet soil, he believes. His particular tool is a Landoll model. It is one of about nine vertical tillage tools now on the market. The concept is to drive fast, run shallow, leave more residue on top than a disk, and not pull up wet soil as a disk would.
While the first trip over the field is supposed to be the worst for creating soil compaction, the jury is still out according to most experts as to whether a vertical tillage pass, as long as the soil is not too wet, actually creates much compaction or not. It does spread out residue and allow soil to warm up and dry out before the planter arrives.
The drawback, of course, is cost. Most models in the 25 –foot range carry a price-tag around $50,000. If you have one, you don't want to run it slow and deep. Then it becomes an expensive disk, and defeats the purpose of a light trip over the soil to open up avenues for moisture to evaporate, and for soils to dry out.
More will be known when more soybean fields begin to emerge over the course of the next few days However, at this point, at least in this farmer's mind, his investment in a high-cost tool paid dividends during this unusual spring.