Uncover the Truth about True Vertical Tillage and Turbo-Max
Blake Bergkamp, Great Plains Sales Agronomist, investigates some of the most commonly debated facts about vertical tillage.
True vertical tillage is defined as a system that works the soil vertically to remove or avoid the addition of horizontal layers, or density changes.
FACT: While the industry maintains several definitions of vertical tillage tools, including those that create the addition of compaction layers – at Great Plains, we define vertical as a system that works the soil vertically to remove or avoid the addition of horizontal layers, or density changes. This system of tillage maintains a uniform soil profile and prevents compaction, allowing adequate space for maximum root growth which gives the plant greater access to water and nutrients, contributing to a higher yield potential. Without strong roots, the plant becomes more susceptible to threats like disease, wind, and drought. By using a vertical finish tool, it will help establish an ideal seedbed to allow precision seed placement by the planter.
Vertical tillage is also known for being environmentally-friendly by speeding up decomposition and reducing erosion. Vertical tillage tools are generally faster than conventional tools and make efficient work for the producer – often achieving results in one pass, saving producers time and fuel costs. However, some of the trade-offs of vertical tillage include the usage of chemicals for weed control.
The Great Plains Turbo-Max® is a true vertical tillage tool that has agronomic benefits of both spring vertical tillage and fall residue management. In the fall, the gangs of the Turbo-Max can be adjusted to run at an angle to bury more residue. This aids in the decomposition process and pins the residue to the ground. In the spring, the Turbo-Max can be run at 0 degrees to create the ideal seedbed to allow for precise seed placement. The Turbo-Max is the ideal vertical tillage tool for min-tillers who want to size and anchor residue without deeply working the ground in the fall. In the spring, it vertically cuts residue and fractures the soil to create a smooth seedbed for uniform seed emergence.
Extensive tillage trials have shown that the “last pass rules.”
FACT: The results of a six-year tillage study conducted by Farm Journal found that the last pass does in-fact “rule” when it comes to seedbed preparation and vertical tillage. The purpose of the first five years of the study was to evaluate the economics and best practices of creating and maintaining a uniform soil density profile. The study concluded that a seedbed with uniform soil density did, indeed, result in a significant yield advantage.
On the sixth year of the study, the team evaluated the impact of just one pass of conventional tillage on these previously vertically tilled fields. The fields were split in half: one side was treated the same as the previous five years and the other half was treated with one pass of a field cultivator. The result was a 6.5 to 26.5 bu. yield reduction where the horizontal layer was introduced. Hence, the industry phrase, “The last pass rules.”
The “last pass rules” is one of the reasons why Great Plains developed the Implement Command™ system for the Turbo-Max. This technology unlocks the potential for precision management of the vertical tillage tool. Implement Command allows operators to create the ultimate seedbed across varying field conditions.
Tillage tools must be adjusted manually by the operator.
MYTH: In the past, a lack of applied technology has limited the producer’s ability to easily monitor and make precise adjustments to their tillage tools. However, in the age of technology and convenience, even tillage equipment is beginning to evolve. Instead of manually making adjustments, the new Implement Command system offered by Great Plains helps producers make adjustments and monitor the performance of their Turbo-Max from the comfort of their cab. Changes, such as wing down pressure and basket pressure, can be made on-the-go at the touch of a button.
Likewise, producers no longer have to worry about accidentally hitting a lever and making unintended changes to the field. The Implement Command system makes these changes immediately visible on the screen and has a screen lock/unlock function for peace of mind. With the advancement of these tillage technologies like Implement Command, producers can cover more acres more efficiently, while also benefiting yields and soil health.
Within the same field, producers do not need to make tillage adjustments.
MYTH: As producers move across a field, they may encounter a variety of different field conditions, even within a small area. Each of these unique areas needs to be treated differently. The amount of residue, soil moisture, soil texture, compaction, and topography are a few of the main reasons why producers may need to make adjustments to their tillage implement as they work to create the ideal seedbed to maximize crop yields.
Gang angle, tillage depth, fore/aft leveling, wing down pressure, and the finishing reel down pressure, are adjustment features that the new Turbo-Max with Implement Command allows the operator to make and monitor, all on-the-go from the convenience of the tractor cab. For example, a rutted area of the field that is uneven and compacted may require a deeper working depth and more angle on the gangs to fill in the ruts to leave behind a level planting seedbed. With Implement Command, producers can easily make these depth adjustments from the cab by selecting one of the three user-defined presets.
A true vertical tillage tool and a high-speed disk will produce the same field results.
MYTH: Despite popular belief, there are several key differences between the field performance of a true vertical tillage tool and a high-speed disk. Our true vertical tillage solution uses two sets of turbo coulters and a rolling basket and reel to leave a level, higher quality finish. A disk compresses and rolls the soil, while a true vertical tillage tool breaks and fractures the soil.
A true vertical tillage tool will leave a level, uniform seedbed with smaller particles and a smooth seedbed floor. These exceptional finishing qualities allow a planter to follow directly behind a Turbo-Max. A disk, on the other hand, is more suited to primary and secondary tillage operations to erase moderate to deep harvest ruts and maximize residue incorporation.
A Turbo-Max can handle wet conditions better than a gang disk.
FACT: It’s true – due to its design, the Turbo-Max can actually handle wet conditions better than a gang disk. The secret to a Turbo-Max’s ability to operate in wet conditions is its ability to operate at shallower depths. Turbo blades operating at a 0-degree gang angle do not roll the soil. They also shed wet soil better than concave blades. If conditions become too wet, the rear roller can also be lifted up to prevent plugging.
With the Implement Command system, producers have the ability to set the depth at a precise location and adjust as needed for varying field conditions. Similarly, the new Turbo-Max’s fore and aft leveling capabilities give producers more control of the machine in wet conditions to help avoid plugging. A gang disk has the potential to plug the rear gang with the wet, compressed soil turned over by the front gangs. This causes further soil distress and frustration for the operator.
There is a one-size-fits-all tillage solution.
MYTH: When it comes to tillage tools, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, producers should look at their existing operation to determine their operation’s needs and production goals, and to identify current problem-areas to address. From here, producers can research options and contact their local Great Plains dealer to help them make a decision based on their end goals. For instance, if a producer is looking for a true vertical tillage finishing tool that can incorporate lime and fill in ruts, a Turbo-Max may be the correct solution. However, for another operation that is less concerned with finishing quality and requires a more aggressive machine, the new hybrid tillage tool, Velocity®, may better fit their needs and help cover more acres quickly.
Producers should also fully-investigate products that claim to be “vertical tillage.” Some companies are marketing equipment as vertical tillage tools when, in fact, they are retrofitted disks with low-concavity disc blades, meaning they are essentially just high-speed disks. 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. disc harrow with low concave or straight waved blades).” From the study, dealers concluded that compact disks, referring to those disks with inline gangs, should not be mistaken for vertical tillage tools. Products that have straight coulters on coil springs do work the soil vertically, but they also create an inconsistent seedbed because they are forced up in denser soil and tough stalks and work deeper in light soil.
Whether it is the new Turbo-Max with Implement Command or another one of our quality tillage tools, Great Plains has a full line of tillage solutions to fit your operation.
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.