Summers Manufacturing tillage blades

After a year or two of rushed fieldwork, prevent planted acres, and many other uncommon farming practices, Summers Equipment of North Dakota has one main suggestion to get over the hump in 2020 – variable-rate tillage.

Bruce Johnson, the director of innovations for Summers Manufacturing, who serves most of North Dakota and northern South Dakota, said that after several years of struggle many producers came to the equipment manufacturer in search of answers. What it boiled down to was the need to cut up residue without disturbing the soil.

“There were different things being done last spring that people haven’t done for at least a few years,” Johnson said. “A lot of areas had a very challenging year and were not able to get the ground worked the way they normally would.”

Because farmers weren’t able to complete fieldwork as usual, Summers looked at ways to better serve their needs moving into 2020, which is looking to be a dryer reprieve that many farmers need.

Serving customers farm by farm no longer means servicing one type of soil.

“Farms are spread out a lot more than they used to be,” Johnson said.

One farmer’s ground is spread out across thousands of acres that are made of different soil types and moisture levels and have different management requirements. It became clear to Johnson that variable rate tilling would be the best recommendation he could give.

The method changes aggressiveness of tillage based on need – whether it’s fixing small ruts from sprayers or applying vertical tillage to break up residue.

Vertical tillage can lift soil in the seedbed while leaving the majority of the soil and crop residue undisturbed. Johnson said that is key for 2020.

“Get something with a light footprint that can get out in the field and start letting it breathe,” he said. “And pray for some sunshine.”

Vertical tillage can be applied to many different operations, according to Johnson. After a year of little to no fieldwork, many producers are looking to open up the soil to dry out.

Johnson recommends that approach for preparing prevented planting acres for a new crop. Even on pastures, he’s seen producers use vertical tillage tools to dry out the land.

Whether through tillage or other means, Johnson said 2020 has far more options than previous years.

Reach Reporter Jager Robinson at 605-335-7300, email jager.robinson@lee.net or follow on Twitter @Jager_Robinson.