Tillage with Wade Oman & Jason Ries
Feb 04, 2019
Jesse Wiant: Thanks Stef, so today we want to spend a little bit of time talking about tillage. There's been a lot of buzz surrounding it the last couple of years, especially with the wet falls that we've had here in central Minnesota. It's not too surprising that compaction is a big issue as well with the wet falls we've had, or at least a big question if it's not an issue. A lot of questions about minimum tillage versus no-till versus conventional tillage. To me, tillage isn't necessarily about what works best for everybody as much as what works best for each specific grower in their operation. The biggest goal is residue sizing so we can make sure to have a good seed bed for the next spring. So like Stef said, today we have Wade and Jason here to do a little bit of talking about tillage and what to expect for the 2019 season. So Wade, why don't you go ahead and give us a little bit of an introduction of who you are and what you do.
Wade Oman: My name is Wade Oman I'm with Kuhn-Krause and have been with them for about 14 years now. I am specifically on the tillage part of Kuhn's business, they also handle hay equipment, which would include rakes, spreaders and things like that, but I am strictly in the tillage side.
Jason Ries: Hey Wade, it's Jason Ries. With the weather that we had last fall, there's a lot of tillage that didn't get done. Do you have any recommendations on what people should try to do this spring to handle the field work that didn't get done last fall?
Wade Oman: Yeah, there's certainly a lot of options out there. It will really depend on the level of black that you want to achieve for your finish. So if you're looking at something where you can manage the residue with your planter, the vertical tillage type system, like Excelerator, will do a very nice job of sizing that residue so that it can go through the planter easily and it will give you a very nice level of out put out the back. A high speed tillage type piece is going to be much more aggressive, it's is going to leave about 50 to 55% residue versus your vertical tillage, which can leave about 75 to 80%. So there are a couple of different options. You really have to evaluate the ruts that you may have left last fall and that will dictate the tillage system that you're going to use also. A vertical tillage system is not going to take those ruts out, so you'll have to be thinking about something a little more traditional in a disk or, like I'd mentioned, a high-speed tillage. If you were able to get some fall tillage done, then you'd be back more towards what you've conventionally done for tillage.
Jesse Wiant: Going from farm to farm, visiting with different growers, there are a lot of different tillage practices that we run into. Wade, what are some of the common tillage pieces that you see in your travels?
Wade Oman: For the Minnesota market, the biggest two tillage pieces are the ripper market, which would be a disk ripper or in-line ripper for mainly fall use and there are chisel plows, all the way to less intensive, which would include vertical tillage, like our Excelerator or strip-till like the Gladiator. Predominantly in the spring, it's dominated by a field cultivator market, but there are other options that farmers are choosing also in the springtime, which would include a soil finisher or vertical tillage type machine for spring time use.
Jason Ries: I was just wondering, can you give us a quick breakdown of what conventional versus reduced tillage means?
Wade Oman: Well, when you're looking at conventional tillage, it's a function of the amount of residue that's remaining after your pass through the field. So in a conventional system, typically in the fall time, you're going to have anywhere from 30 to 50, maybe 60% residue. In a reduced tillage system that residue increased to anywhere from 70 to 95% of residue remaining on top. So for example, if you're running in stalks with an Excelerator, which is our vertical till machine, you can expect you're going to have about 85% residue remaining on the soil surface compared to our disk-ripper, being the Dominator, which would be about 50 to 55%, which would carry over then to what you'd have remaining in the springtime depending on what type of tillage you've adopted in the spring. So that could range from 10% to 50% in a reduced tillage system.
Jason Ries: Is there one system, conventional or reduced, that you find to suit your growers' needs?
Wade Oman: It really depends on the farmer and his expectations. If historically they've been a conventional tillage farmer, they may or may not be apt to change. What I'm seeing happening is, as the younger generation comes in and becomes more focused on farming, there seems to be more of a movement towards the reduced tillage, whether it be strip-till or a vertical tillage system. So I think over time that reduced tillage system is going to start to gain more and more traction and we're seeing that, but it's a slow road to hoe.
Jesse Wiant: So Wade, you hit on this a little bit already, but I guess maybe just to clarify or to clean it up a little bit, when we were looking at a typical conventional tillage system in this area, like you said it's usually that ripper in the fall followed by maybe a field cultivator pass in the spring. What are the main goals of those passes? I think for the most part that fall pass is more or less from a compaction standpoint and maybe that spring pass is residue management. Is there more to it than just that?
Wade Oman: Yeah, you hit on a couple of points. In the fall time with a traditional system, what they're trying to do is manage the compaction and that's where the shank comes in. The shank gets that fracture to open up for better soil drainage and for, in the springtime, root enhancements so it's has a path to follow down into the soil profile. But there's also a secondary goal, to really size that residue. The smaller the residue, the quicker that it's going to break down. The third part to that then is getting it mixed into the soil profile for that microbial activity. So it's really a matter of the goal to take care of your compaction while starting that residue to break down and to create that seed bed finish for spring. So in the springtime, generally the field cultivator pass is to provide the zone that you're going to be planting your seed into. So some of the things that are important there are mixing the soil evenly, getting out the hot and cold air in the soil to get a more uniform temperature, and to get more of a uniformity as far as moisture goes so you get good even emergence for their seedlings then after planting.
Jesse Wiant: So today with a lot of the younger people coming back to the farm and maybe looking at more of a reduced tillage system. What are some of the goals there? Is it more about time management or just becoming more efficient with the use of the equipment?
Wade Oman: I would say that it's really a little bit of both. When you take a look at a strip-till, for example, that type of a system creates a lot of efficiency in that you're putting down your fertilizer and you're creating that planting zone that you're going to come back to and plant over the top so we can eliminate multiple passes over the field in one pass. So it really gains that efficiency and I think there's an environmental aspect to it also. Where the reduced tillage system, you're going to have less soil movement, unintended soil movement IE, erosion. So there's a couple of different things that they're trying to capture there.
Jesse Wiant: What about vertical tillage? To me, that's something that I get a lot of questions on. I would say it's a hot topic right now. I'm not so certain that the questions are coming from a compaction standpoint as much as just trying to size that residue. I guess what can you add about vertical tillage or maybe how or when to use that?
Wade Oman: So it's another reduced tillage type system, it's a system that you can really go with a lot of speed. So from an efficiency standpoint, if you can pull your tillage 8, 9, or 10 miles over the field, you're going to get a lot of acres per hour accomplished, basically reducing your workload over time. It's more of a slice and dice type system. So we're sizing the residue, which is important but we're also mixing a little bit of soil with that residue to help with the breakdown. So, from a fall perspective that's kind of the goal. From a spring perspective, again, size of that residue, mix a little bit in, leveling, creating that seed bed, but also what you're going to get is, instead of working 100%of the soil profile, like a traditional sweep would, which in some circumstances can create that sub soil compaction that a seedling has a hard time going through. With a vertical till system and the disks being upright, we eliminate that for a perceived better germination. So those are kind of the dynamics that are driving that vertical tillage system. On the flip side though there's trash component that needs to be managed and a lot of the planters today can be set up to manage that trash efficiently. So farmers have had very good success, but it's a different mindset versus a conventional tillage system.
Jason Ries: There seems to be more and more people that are working with high speed tillage. Can you tell me what high speed tillage is all about?
Wade Oman: Basically it was kind of developed for the overseas markets. They're using a little bit more aggressive tillage at high speed. And with the advent of vertical tillage, there were some gaps that were kind of what I'll just say unfulfilled. There were some issues with some weed control in those systems and there were farmers where it really wasn't working enough of the soil or getting that level of black that they would prefer. So they've moved towards the high speed tillage market which is going to be significantly more aggressive than a vertical tillage system, but it does have the benefit of the high speed component to it. It's more of a high speed disk but it's much more aggressive and like I said, it gives you that better weed control while providing a real nice smooth output. So there has been some movement in that direction.
Jesse Wiant: I would assume with that you're getting better mixing because of the speed?
Wade Oman: Yeah, you're getting the better mixing, instead of like a traditional disk that rolls the soil over like our Interceptor, for example, it's on a 16 degree angle with a nine degree tip, which is a little bit different than what a traditional disk, which is more upright as far as the blade angle on it. So it basically tosses the soil up, creating more of what I call a salad effect in the mixing that you obtain with that high speed and the way that that machine is designed. So little bit different than what we're traditionally using in the marketplace. I should add to that, with a high speed tillage system that it does work 100% of the soil profile. So you are doing extensively more mixing than the vertical tillage system and that's kind of where your weed control comes in and also your increasing level of black. But based on that, it does take a lot of horsepower to pull them because you're working so much that soil profile.
Jesse Wiant: That makes sense I guess you're going deeper than like a VT machine would anyways.
Wade Oman: You're generally then two to five inch range, but realistically five inches if you're mixing on 100% of the profile. They really don't even make a tractor that is big enough today to try to accomplish that.
Jason Ries: Well Wade, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to talk with us today. Just want to put a shout out that there will be a tillage clinic on February 6th, 9AM to 11AM at Hamburg, and then 1:30PM to 3:30PM at Judson. Wade will be there and he will go through explaining different tillage options and we'll be able to answer any questions that any of you have.
Jesse Wiant: Like Wade said, there's no silver bullet for tillage. What works great for your neighbor may not necessarily work for your operation. Jason, how can growers learn more about tillage besides the two events.
Jason Ries: All they have to do is make a phone call to UFC and can talk to anyone in the sales department and they can line them up, hook them up, whatever they need to do with whatever they're looking for.
Wade Oman: Thank you. Appreciate the time today.
Jesse Wiant: Thank you.
Stefanie W: Thanks Wade.
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