Tillage Methods: Embracing the Diversity

The agriculture industry is full of diversity – from the land to the products grown, and even the methods used to raise these commodities. At Great Plains, we understand the diverse needs of agricultural producers and offer a wide selection of tillage equipment, including conventional, vertical, and now, hybrid tillage implements.

Conventional Tillage

For many years, conventional tillage has been a tried-and-true method for residue management, weed control, and seedbed preparation. Conventional tillage is known to be one of the most aggressive forms of tillage. The aggressiveness of these tools and their ability to move the soil provide exceptional weed control, residue mixing, and field leveling capabilities.

In recent years, several weed species have become difficult to control due to herbicide resistance. As a result, there has been an increased interest in conventional tillage tools to control weeds both prior to planting and in-season. Additionally, conventional tillage methods have also become popular with organic farmers, who are not allowed to use synthetic herbicides. Also, rutted fields from equipment traffic and wet conditions can be effectively leveled with different conventional tillage products. Despite being more aggressive, conventional tillage tools require slower working speeds than vertical or hybrid tillage implements. Another disadvantage to using conventional tillage methods is that they often require secondary passes with a finishing tool to ensure a smooth seedbed for planting. It is also worth noting that conventional tillage tools can be sensitive to wet field conditions and can also cause significant moisture loss to the soil.

As part of the conventional tillage product line, Great Plains has expanded the size offerings for disk harrows. Disk harrows are now available in 10', 12', and 15'. Learn more about these new sizes here: https://bit.ly/2MJiqFc.

Vertical Tillage

Great Plains defines true vertical tillage 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 and the delivery of nutrients and water throughout the plant, contributing to a higher yield potential. Without a strong set of 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 practices have many benefits, including enhanced root growth, nutrient absorption, water infiltration, and increased yields. Vertical tillage is also known for being environmentally-friendly, with its ability to speed up decomposition and prevent erosion. Vertical tillage tools can be run 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 and its lesser ability to correct existing erosion issues. 

New to the Great Plains vertical tillage lineup is the Implement Command™ system on Turbo-Max®. The Implement Command system allows producers to easily adjust and monitor their Turbo-Max, all from the cab. To learn more about the Implement Command system available on Turbo-Max, visit: https://bit.ly/2FiucQL.

Hybrid Tillage

For producers who have needs that fall somewhere in between vertical and conventional tillage, Great Plains has introduced a new tillage category called, "Hybrid Tillage." Great Plains defines hybrid tillage as a tillage system that uses a blend of vertical and conventional tillage methods or tools that allow for an aggressive field pass at faster operating speeds. This improves the efficiency of the tillage operation, which means less time spent on costly field operations.  

Hybrid tillage tools, like the new Velocity™, incorporate some benefits of conventional tillage, while maintaining increased speeds similar to vertical tillage tools. Compared to vertical tillage, hybrid tillage is more aggressive with field leveling, incorporating residue, and offers better weed control. Some of the trade-offs of hybrid tillage include the possible creation of density change layers, unlike vertical tillage, and the lack of complete weed kill, unlike conventional tillage.

However, there has been significant confusion surrounding high-speed disks and their place in the vertical tillage market. 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.

The Velocity is a hybrid tillage implement that is designed to bury more residue than a true vertical tillage tool, but with shallow-concavity SpeedBlades™ on 7½" spacing. To learn more about the new addition to hybrid tillage, the Velocity, visit: https://bit.ly/2LVpEXc.

Like other aspects of agriculture, tillage practices are also quite diverse. No matter whether you practice vertical, conventional, or hybrid tillage, Great Plains has a tillage solution for your operation. Rest assured, each piece of Great Plains tillage equipment is durable, dependable, and field-tested – so the choice is yours. Visit our New Products page or contact your local Great Plains dealer to learn more about what's new at Great Plains!