Pulling into a barnlot the other day, the brand new, bright blue tool was hard to miss. It was obvious it hadn't been to the field yet. It wasn't dusty. Anything that comes within half mile of a field is going to be dusty, at least where significant rain hasn't fallen yet.
The farmer purchased the 26-foot wide Landoll vertical tillage tool after trying out a smaller version last spring. He used it as a one-pass tool on cornstalks on a few fields- one where soils were wetter, and one where weeds were already front-tire high. The tool worked great in both cases, and formed a seedbed in one pass without further tillage. The fields have been harvested, and yields were comparable, not higher or lower, than fields where the tool was not run, and the field was no-tilled instead. No check strips were left to make direct comparisons.
It's a scenario that's likely repeating itself in barn lots across Indiana- new vertical tillage tools are showing up on more farms. The debate goes on- does it really help? Is it the transition from conventional to no-till you need? Is it an aid for no-tillers with wet soils to get an edge? Should you run it in the fall, spring or both? Do you need to run it on bean stubble, or just corn stubble?
There are far more questions than answers. Tony Vyn, a Purdue University Extension ag specialist, says they're collecting data, but need more data to make definite conclusions. OS far, running it in the spring is the main place he sees an advantage.
Two new models, one from a company that already had a vertical tillage tool and one from a new player, are hitting the market this fall. Salford was already on the market with the Salford RTS machine. Pockets of users report good success in various areas within the state.
The new model is the RTS EX, which stands for extreme. It's for those who want more aggressive tillage action than the RTS provides. The concept is still the same- run shallow and run fast, fracturing, not churning up soil and residue. But with slightly curved blades, it is more aggressive than the previous model.
Meanwhile, Sunflower, an AGCO company, has introduced is own version of a vertical tillage tool. Look for more details on these tools in upcoming issues of Indiana Prairie Farmer magazine.