Conventional tillage

Ploughing on field

Ploughing is a reliable, tried and tested tillage method that works well in most conditions and provides a number of unique advantages. In one pass, the plough produces a straw-free surface and loosened soil in which a seedbed can be created and a new crop established. 

Intensive Tillage

Tillage is an old practice but this does not mean that it is no longer being improved. Modern tillage has features that can cope with shallow or deep working depth, a toolbar that practically guarantees a straw-free surface and a control panel in the tractor cab that increases the capacity.  Automatic and GPS-assisted on-land tillage and specialist implements for shallow tillage are also available on the market nowadays. 

A common problem in tillage is the creation of a hard pan (a compacted layer below tillage depth). Tillage depth should therefore be varied between years. If large amounts of straw are present there is a risk of a straw layer being created at the furrow base, a problem that can be rectified by a prior pass with a Carrier.

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Seedbed and seed planting

On light soils, tillage leaves a surface that only requires some levelling and reconsolidation to produce a good seedbed. If a cultivating seed drill such as the Concord are used, other tillage can be limited to one or two passes or even omitted completely. 

On clay soils, however, the plough leaves a surface that requires more work before it is suitable for seeding or planting. In the past, cultivators, rollers and levellers were used until a seedbed was created. Today disc implements such as Carrier and Wil-Rich are widely used in combination with cultivators in order to decrease the number of passes. Cultivating seed drills such as Concord also place lower demands on the seedbed compared with conventional seed drills.   

In cold growing regions where the soil freezes in winter, the need for seedbed preparation in spring is drastically reduced on clay soils and is comparable to that on light clays.

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Disadvantages of intensive tillage

Tillage systems are less suitable in dry conditions in particular, since the soil loses relatively large amounts of moisture during the intensive tillage involved, which can result in poor emergence if there is no rainfall after sowing.      

Heavy rainfall after sowing can also cause problems, as the straw-free surface can form a strong crust on certain types of soil. In addition, heavy rainfall and wind can give a high risk of erosion in some regions.

The intensive cultivation associated with tillage also reduces earthworm numbers.

With the exception of those regions where crusting, drought and erosion are critical factors, the primary driving force behind reduced use of tillage is economic. While tillage implements itself are not the most expensive piece sof equipment, the low capacity means that the costs per acre are high. In addition, the high time requirement per acre poses a problem on large farms where available time is limited, particularly in the autumn. 

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