Maybe you haven't yet bit the bullet and bought a vertical tillage tool, but you're thinking about it. If you want to see them in action one more time before you decided on the concept, and on which model fits you best, head toward Decatur, Ill., and the 2011 Farm Progress Show this week. Weather permitting companies who choose to do so will demonstrate vertical tillage tools during the tillage demonstrations each afternoon. The demonstrations will most likely be into corn stalks, following up after where the combines demonstrated and shelled corn that morning.
Mark Lovig, who helps organize field demonstrations for the Farm Progress Show, says they had so many requests to alter the rules to allow vertical tillage tools to go as fast as they are designed to run, that they created a category so they could do so. Speed of tillage tools is usually limited for safety reasons.
However, nearly every vertical tillage tool on the market is made by someone recommending that they run between 7 and 9 miles per hour, if not higher. Most companies also recommend that they be run at a shallow depth, say 1 to 2 inches. The idea is to break the surface and do enough mixing of soil and residue to begin the residue breakdown process, without leaving a lot of soil bare.
Tests a year ago by Indiana Prairie Farmer determined that although the residue was in smaller chunks, the residue cover in soybeans planted two weeks earlier into a vertically-tilled field was only about 10% less than the residue where soybeans had been drilled into the same kind of soil under similar weather conditions.
To achieve leaving that much residue, the machines must be ran at a rapid speed. Lovig says the new rules for vertical tillage machines should allow them to operate at speeds which allow the manufacturer to show what their machine can do.
At least nine companies are now offering their own version of a vertical tillage tool. A good number of them are expected to be on display at the show, and most of them should also be in the field for tillage demonstrations, weather permitting.Most conservation sources say that while vertical tillage tools help soil dry out if run in the spring, they are also good to do enough mixing to let breakdown of residue start if run in the fall.