Making the Case for Hybrid Tillage
Hybrid tillage is a new buzz word in the ag industry – but what does it mean for the way you farm? Hybrid tillage tools are versatile and can help producers benefit from the best of both conventional and vertical tillage methods. This new class of tillage tools is poised to help producers fill the gap between a true vertical tillage tool and a conventional tillage tool.
Confusion in the Marketplace
Many types of hybrid tools have been available for quite some time, although confusion in the marketplace has led to many being incorrectly classified as vertical tillage tools.
A high-speed compact disk study by Ag Equipment Intelligence® indicated, “Despite both compact high-speed disks and vertical tillage being in the North America market for more than a decade, there remains a certain level of confusion about these two tillage tools and what they are designed to accomplish in the field…Some say the discrepancies in the definition arise from manufacturers adapting existing tools to try to get into the vertical tillage market (i.e. disk harrow with low-concave or straight-waved blades).” From the study, dealers concluded that tillage tools designed with low-concavity disc blades should not be mistaken for vertical tillage tools. Instead, these tools have distinct characteristics and agronomic differences and should be classified as a hybrid tillage product.
Defining Hybrid Tillage
Hybrid tillage tools retain some of the benefits of conventional tillage, such as incorporating heavy residue and killing weeds, while maintaining faster operating speeds similar to vertical tillage tools. However, compared to vertical tillage, hybrid tillage is more aggressive when it comes to managing residue, terminating weeds, and leveling rutted fields. Conversely, hybrid tillage doesn’t operate at the depths of a conventional disk and, unlike a true vertical tillage tool, they can introduce compaction layers in certain conditions. The blades on a hybrid tillage tool typically have less concavity than a disk harrow blade, and oftentimes will have rippled, or wavy, blade edges for more aggressive cut-out.
While covering more ground at faster speeds is important, producers also want a tool that will create a seedbed prior to planting. As a general rule, hybrid tools can be run shallower as a seedbed prep tool and are often capable of creating a seedbed that is suitable for many producers’ planting conditions.
Due to the gang angle and slight concavity of the blades on hybrid tillage tools, it is inevitable that they will create some level of density change below the depth of operation – unlike true vertical tillage tools. The nature of a hybrid tillage tool is to move soil horizontally, which could create a washboard or rumble strip below the surface in certain soil types or moisture conditions. Hybrid tillage tools, however, are designed to run at shallower depths than conventional tools. While a true vertical tillage tool still creates the best seeding environment, in many scenarios and cropping systems, a hybrid tillage system may still meet the needs of many farm operations as a final seedbed preparation pass.
The bottom line is, if it has low-concavity disc blades, it should be considered hybrid.
Characteristics of Hybrid Tillage Tools
Within hybrid tillage, different styles of tools are designed to operate somewhere between a conventional disk harrow and a true vertical tillage tool (0° gang angle and non-concave blades). Two distinct hybrid designs are used: parallel gang-style and angled gang-style machines.
Parallel Gang-Style: These are more commonly referred to as European-style short disks or speed disks, and are designed with two parallel rows of individually-mounted blades. Linear rows of disc blades are closely coupled together with all of the tires out in front of the machine. In some instances, they may be spread apart with the tires in the middle of the frame, between the rows of blades. All are designed to operate at shallower depths and higher speeds than conventional disks.
Angled Gang-Style: These implements are often built around the same frame structure and gang angle as a conventional disk harrow. It is, however, their specially-designed, shallow-concavity blades on narrower blade spacings that defines them as hybrid tillage tools. The blades on these tools are not individually mounted, but are mounted together on gangs, which reduces the amount of wear experienced on the parallel gang-style units.
At Great Plains, we’re making the case for better hybrid tillage with the new Velocity! The Velocity is a versatile, hybrid tillage implement that is designed to bury more residue than a true vertical tillage tool, but with Great Plains’ exclusive shallow-concavity SpeedBlades™ on 7½" spacing, and an adjustable hydraulic down pressure reel. The Velocity out-cuts and out-finishes competitive low-concavity, high-speed disks for a high-quality seedbed.
Finding the Right Tool for You
No matter if your tillage preference is vertical, conventional, or hybrid, Great Plains offers the most comprehensive tillage line to meet the needs of your operation.
Use the comparison guide below to find the Great Plains tillage tool that best fits your operation. For complete product details and to learn about other solutions, visit our Products page.
About the Agronomist – Blake Bergkamp
Blake Bergkamp grew up in south central Kansas on a small family farm. Growing up in this area provided Blake with a unique experience in agriculture, as continuous wheat and conventional tillage still dominate many of the acres. Blake attended Kansas State University where he completed a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Economics and an MS degree in Agronomy. During college, Blake gained valuable experience with crop production and physiology at the Kansas State University Agronomy Lab.
In 2018, Blake joined the Great Plains team as a Sales Agronomist. As Sales Agronomist, Blake’s responsibilities include writing agronomic and educational content for customers and producers; designing field tests and compiling data; planning and conducting events and field demonstrations; and working alongside the product development team to ensure positive agronomic outcomes.