While compiling the report, “What is Vertical Tillage Anyway?” that appeared in the March 2014 issue of Farm Equipment, we also asked the manufacturers of vertical tillage tools to compare this rapidly emerging practice with using a traditional field cultivator. Following are their comments.

McFarlane Manufacturing

VT vs. Field Cultivator: A traditional cultivator creates a stratification layer underneath the sweep across the total width of the machine. For example, a field cultivator with 8 inch sweeps will create a density layer 8 inches wide at the bottom of each sweep. If the sweeps are set at 8 inch spacing, the density layer will be virtually 100%, which can cause problems with root development and potentially decrease crop yields. This problem is magnified when working soils that are wet or cold. Likewise, a conventional disc with 2 gangs of concave or conical blades set at 18 degree angles will also contact 100% of the soil. While these machines may be effective for residue management, they are not vertical tillage.


VT vs. Field Cultivator: Vertical tillage equipment combines characteristics or features of several different traditional equipment types. It handles the high volume of crop residue well, but generally does not attempt to bury the residue like a disc. Vertical tillage can be used in the spring to provide an even, clean seedbed, but without using the horizontal sweeps of a field cultivator or running as deep as a chisel plow. In many respects, vertical tillage is more of a residue management or seedbed management tool than a tillage tool.

Kuhn Krause

VT vs. Field Cultivator: Shallow vertical tillage is very different from the traditional cultivator in that we are trying to perform many of the functions of a cultivator (residue management and seedbed preparation) without the use of shanks or sweeps. This has proven to be a challenge from the standpoint of achieving a uniform seedbed for many seedbed sensitive crops. One key difference between a traditional cultivator and vertical tillage is that vertical tillage provides the ability to size, incorporate and anchor residue as compared to a traditional cultivator.

Salford Group

VT vs. Field Cultivator: Field cultivators are some of the most trusted seedbed preparations implements in modern agriculture. In certain soil types, field cultivators are unmatched at preparing fine seedbeds and leveling while incorporating fertilizer and nutrients. However, field cultivators all use some kind of sweep or shovel that stands a very likely chance of creating secondary density layers in damp soil. Field cultivator tines also are not suited to conditioning residue and can plug. True vertical implements, with blades or shanks entering the soil at low or no angle, can run in a wider range of soil moisture and residue conditions. 

Summers Manufacturing

VT vs. Field Cultivator: True vertical tillage is a completely different tillage operation from a traditional cultivator. Cultivators slice through the soil on a horizontal plane, ideally at a uniform depth, to provide weed control and produce a level seedbed. While a level seedbed is desirable, a layered soil profile can limit a crop’s potential. Unnecessarily loosening all the soil makes it extremely vulnerable to water and wind erosion. Cultivators don’t cut or size residue and aren’t able to operate properly in as wet of conditions that true vertical tillage can.

Great Plains Manufacturing

VT vs. Field Cultivator: All conventional tillage tools work horizontally and “shear” the soil at operating depth resulting in a density change. True vertical tillage only works vertically in the direction of travel, so there is nothing to create shear or a soil density change.

Landoll Corp.

VT vs. Field Cultivator: Both tools can be used in seedbed preparation, however a cultivator is typically run at a depth deeper than what a vertical tillage unit will be run in the same application. The vertical tillage unit is also capable of handling more residue and wetter conditions than a cultivator.

Environmental Tillage Systems

VT vs. Field Cultivator: There is a marked difference between vertical tillage and the traditional field cultivator. Precision agriculture is changing the landscape and enables farmers to be more efficient while realizing increased productivity with the new generation vertical tillage equipment. The caveat is it may require more farm management vs. providing the ease and joy of traditional/recreational cultivators. Why not save time and money? The combination of precise nutrient placement with fall or spring vertical tillage saves money by merging operations and eliminating unnecessary implements.

Kongskilde Industries

VT vs. Field Cultivator: There definitely is a marked difference between vertical tillage and the traditional cultivator. The traditional cultivator must be used in dryer ground conditions as well as in much smaller amounts of residue. You can’t go into untouched corn stalks with a cultivator or into 2 foot wheat stubble without plugging it up. The cultivator also does not size residue. The cultivator will not work properly in a 1-1.5 inch application, particularly in hard ground conditions unless there is a primary pass made with a different tool. This is the distinct advantage to using a vertical tillage machine. It will work for shallow tillage, as well as size residue without plugging and without bringing up wet chunks of dirt.

Case IH

VT vs. Field Cultivator: Vertical seedbed tillage and traditional field cultivators are both viable tools that differ on a scale of aggressiveness. Traditional field cultivator sweeps overlap slightly and are excellent for establishing a level floor across the width of the machine. The sweeps and shanks mix soils completely to the depth of the tool. They are excellent for heavy soil conditions and those with severe weed issues. They are typically used only in spring. Vertical seedbed tools, like the Case IH True Tandem Vertical Tillage, disturb less soil and produce great results in both fall and spring conditions. 


VT vs. Field Cultivator: Vertical tillage tools and compact discs are very different than the traditional cultivator. Vertical tillage machines slice and dice residue while the cultivator drags tines through the ground and does not cut and shorten the residue. Compact discs work with rolling discs instead of tines, which are less likely to hold on to residue and plug up the machine. Because of their design, these units can be worked much faster than a cultivator


VT vs. Field Cultivator: Vertical tillage is different from traditional cultivators in that it really is only sizing residue and leaving it on the surface. The initial idea was to decrease the issues caused by traditional tillage methods while still breaking down the residue.


VT vs. Field Cultivator: We believe vertical tillage equipment is completely different than a traditional cultivator. Vertical tillage uses a rolling disc to move soil at a high speed, whereas a cultivator is dragging a shank and sweep through the soil moving the soil around and also smearing below the working depth of the shank or sweep.


VT vs. Field Cultivator: Field cultivator is an implement for seedbed preparation, weed eradication or fallow cultivation subsequent to some form of primary tillage. Field cultivators are equipped with spring steel shanks or teeth that don’t chop and size residue. Conventional tillage tools operate horizontally in the soil profile inducing a density change in soil layers. VT tools run vertically, without inducing stratification.


VT vs. Field Cultivator: Current vertical tillage tools are different in the fact that they incorporate a blade, either a flat coulter or a very shallow concave blade to slice residue and manipulate the soil. The conventional cultivator employs a flat sweep designed to lift the soil and undercut to eliminate weeds. In this regard, the vertical tillage tool is markedly different than a traditional cultivator. Many of today’s vertical tillage tools fail at effectively eradicating weeds.