Vertical Tillage continues to be a very popular topic of discussion among farmers looking to better manage their residue. Many producers are currently already using these machines, or are seriously considering implementation. When speaking about vertical tillage, there are several items one should keep in mind. These items include the varying definitions of the practice within the marketplace, how the USDA and NRCS view vertical tillage, and how BLU-JET can help accomplish some of the same goals.
When one considers they way in which the definition of vertical tillage has changed in the past few years, it becomes clear why the definition of the practice can vary so greatly amongst different farmers.
In fact, there is not a singular standard within the industry that defines the vertical tillage practice. Unfortunately we have the manufacturers of farm equipment in part to thank for the blurred definition, as many have introduced new tools under the guise of vertical tillage that would not have qualified under the original definition.
The original and most broad definition of vertical tillage includes any type of tillage machine that does not move the soil from side to side, and therefore does not create a horizontal soil layer. Under this definition, these tools would include chisels, in-line rippers, and straight blade coulter machines. Fundamentally, any ground engaging tool that only moves the soil vertically would qualify as a vertical tillage machine. It can therefore be said that some farming operations have literally been practicing vertical tillage for decades. After the vertical tillage term was coined however, and the marketplace began to respond, the higher speed straight blade coulter machines were clearly the focal point.
As straight blade coulter machines began to gain popularity within the residue management marketplace by demonstrating higher speed operation at wider widths, a migration away from the original vertical tillage definition began to take shape. These machines gave rise to the belief that a vertical tillage machine qualified as such if it used a blade as the primary soil engaging tool, had the ability to be operated at higher speeds, and employed leveling tools such as baskets and harrows. These straight blade tools do qualify under the original definition of vertical tillage, and took center stage while leaving machines like chisels and in-line rippers in lesser supporting roles.
A third type of machine entered this marketplace once the concept of the vertical tillage tool had morphed into one that was perceived as using only blades, and running at a higher rate of speed while leveling the soil. These tools are best classified as high speed discs, and normally employ a series of concave blades that can be run at varying angles. These tools also use a series of baskets or harrows to perform a leveling operation. They appeared at a time where the residue management marketplace was demanding a “vertical tillage” tool that buried more residue. These tools completely abandon the original definition of vertical tillage as most move soil from side to side and some have shown the propensity to create a horizontal layer within the soil.
They way in which the original definition of vertical tillage has changed within the marketplace has lead to great confusion amongst farmers and equipment retailers alike when it comes to finding the tool that will meet a producers needs. It is therefore imperative when speaking about vertical tillage to identify the main objective of the operation. Some of these objectives may include breaking up compaction layers at varying depths, to smooth out areas of the field from tire tracks or water erosion, to cut and size residue, or to improve rainfall penetration by breaking up a surface crust.
Depending on the main objective of the operation, BLU-JET builds a variety of tools that can meet farmers’ needs. SubTiller 4, for example, has StalkSizer coulter attachments and baskets or a conservation roller to eliminate deep compaction layers within the soil, size residue, and perform a leveling operation. BLU-JET CoulterPro, when combined with the LandTracker 9400 Implement Caddy, can allow the producer to size residue and apply liquid fertilizer in a combination pass with a 3-point planter or no-till drill. This same CoulterPro and LandTracker combination can be used in a one-pass operation with SubTiller for residue sizing, deep compaction elimination, dry fertilizer banding, and leveling.