The article most requested information from Indiana Prairie Farmer recently was one about Chris Mann, Cloverdale, who converted an older tillage tool into a machine that did a form of vertical tillage. He did it to pull in fields where he and family members injected hog manure. Since they have a large hog operation, he was talking about a need for a solution on a sizable number of acres.
Vertical tillage, however you define it, is attracting attention. It seems people are looking for something that's not quite true no-till, but that still leaves a lot of residue on the surface. The fact that you only run vertical tillage tools a couple inches deep and run 8 miles per hour or more, letting you cover lots of acres in a day, adds to the attraction.
Several companies have brought excellent models to the market. Farmers seem to be comparing them this spring, some renting models, others begging dealers for a demonstration, in one case two farmers, each with a different tool, ran them both in the same field side by side toe see what the differences were. Part of what any individual walks away thinking about a specific tool seems to rest partly upon their vision of the amount and type of tillage they want done in their field.
The only downside is that these tools carry high price tags, ranging from the low 30's to low 50's for 25 to 30 –foot models. Prices seem to go up as steel prices go up. Whether the price is fair is not the issue. For at least one farmer the issue was that he wasn't ready to spend that much money for a tool that represents a different concept- one that he's not sure whether will work on his farm as he envisions or not.
One northern Indiana farmer bought an older, heavy disk just for the purpose of turning it into a vertical tillage tool. He has ground where fluffy residue needs to be cut up, even though he's mostly no-till.
He tore the disk down and repositioned the gangs, using a torch to make new holes, so that the gangs are now straight. He took the gangs apart, and replaced the curved blades with wavy blades without a curve. He did this for both the front and back gangs. Then he added a crumbler-type tool on the back.
It's not the prettiest tool in the world. But so far it seems to accomplish what the farmer needed to do. He's still experimenting with it, so the jury is still out a bit. But his closing statement summed up where many farmers seem to be sitting currently regarding this new concept of vertical tillage.
"Would I rather run Brand X, a new unit built just to do this?" he says. "Yes. But would I rather spend $48,000 vs. $8,000 to find out if it works for me? No way. That's why I built my own for now."