Wisconsin farmers have begun using a new generation of vertical tillage implements designed to conduct shallow tillage and better distribute crop residue. These machines cause minimal soil inversion. Their main working component is a set of straight and/or wavy coulters, which directs soil disturbance downward in slots, a couple of inches wide by a couple of inches deep. Some crop producers are interested in shallow vertical tillage because current corn hybrids have stalks that slowly decompose due to genetic enhancements for insect resistance. The high levels of previous year corn residue in 1-pass no-till planting systems can reduce yields due to cool wet soils, slow seed germination and the physical challenges of planting into previous year(s) crop residue. Crop consultants and farmers have recognized the value of conducting a small amount of tillage in order to size the existing residue, condition the seedbed, and/or incorporate livestock manure, lime or other nutrients. Some farmers are considering replacing their 1-pass no-till planting system with a 1-pass shallow vertical tillage + plant system.
Soil Science Extension
University of Wisconsin Madison