Video Clip: Chisel Plow and Field Cultivator to Prepare Fields from Vegetable Farmers and their Sustainable Tillage Practices


Vegetable Farmers and their Sustainable Tillage Practices [DVD]. V. Grubinger. 2007. University of Vermont Extension. Available for purchase at: (verified 31 Dec 2008).

This is a Vegetable Farmers and their Sustainable Tillage Practices video clip.

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Ed Person, Ledgewood Farm. Moultonboro, NH.

Audio Text

I’m Ed Person in Ledgewood Farm in Moultonboro, New Hampshire. The farm consists of 100 acres, 22 are tillable and we sell at a farm stand on a busy road. I use cover crops on all my fields. I plant them in the fall, the oats winter kill and the winter rye is a green residue in the spring for those fields I can't get on until later in the spring. We used to use moldboard plows and a rototiller to do all our fields’ very small residue. We used a Planet Jr. planter so we had to use a system that had very little residue. Then as I changed planters we were able to go to a reduced tillage system, which includes a chisel plow and a Perfecta field cultivator.

This field that we’re standing in here is winter killed oats, I prefer them over winter rye because it does leave a dry residue in the spring. There’s enough residue to keep the weed pressure down, but with this amount of pressure I am still able to till the way I want to. We plant the oats at about 100 lbs per acre and we broadcast them with a spin spreader and then we use the Perfecta to turn them under at about 2 inches deep. The weed pressure that’s left here is not a problem for us, these will incorporate very easily, if there’s a lot more weeds, then we will mow it so the length of weeds doesn’t tangle up in the chisel plow.

This is our chisel plow, we converted to using this about 20 years ago - before that we moldboard plowed and harrowed and then we moldboard plowed and rototilled as the rotovator or rototill became more prevalent. This saves us a lot of time and it reduces the fracturing of the soil or the beating up of the soil, I guess is what most people think of when you rototill. This is a set of chisels that go in the ground about a foot. They’ll make a furrow that tills the soil about 12 inches wide, the shanks are 12 inches apart so the entire field gets tilled. After that happens, these smaller spring points will make it so that the big furrows are wiped out or smoothed over and then the rake on back smoothes it out so that it’s almost a perfect seedbed, but it’s still a little too coarse to plant in.

This is our Perfecta that we use for final tillage after we’ve either used the chisel plow or the moldboard plow if there was a lot of trash that the chisel plow couldn’t handle. This is the same principal as the chisel plow, we have a set of aggressive tines in the front that are spaced about 4 inches apart and they will fracture the soil more than what the chisel plow did. Then we have another rake that will flatten the ridges that the chisels make and we’ll also aerate with these slanted tines. And then after they have passed, a roller is the next in line, and that packs and textures the soil so that it will stay in place and we can plant into it.

This brand is a Perfecta by Unverferth there are many other brands out there that you could buy. We use a heavy-duty S tine and a 7 ½ inch shovel. You could also get it in a lighter S tine and a narrower shovel. We use this particular set-up because of our heavy soils and the rocks that we have to bounce around.

This is what we’d like to see after the Perfecta is finished, a little bit of texture, a bit of trash that’s scattered in between, but my planter will certainly plant into this without any trouble. Over here this is a little too trashy, but the planter will still work but it may be hard to cultivate later.

This is a Matermac air planter. We went to this a few years ago from using our Planet Jr and our 71 Flexi-Planter because it allows us to plant in heavier trash, and using the chisel plow and the Perfecta which are really fast tools to prep the soil, this is the next step in doing that. The concept is, it has fertilizer hoppers, seed hoppers, which are the same as any other planters, and then when we get down to the working unit, there’s a shovel that clear the trash out of the way, a set of discs that opens the trench, and then another set of discs that presses the trench closed with the seed in it. So it really moves the trash out of the way and we can plant in really tough going. This is the plow that actually moves the trash and rough ground out of the way for the discs so that they can set the seed at the proper depth. Half inch for carrots and beets for example, two inches for the corn and beans. These are the drive wheels, they actually turn the gearing that allows the seed plate to turn and dispense the seed at the right locations, the vacuum holds the seed on the plate until it is ready to be dropped. The openers are these discs that are hidden inside, they will cut the furrow, these wheels maintain the depth. These two wheels are the covering mechanism. They are angled so that they put pressure with a spring to cover in the furrow. The benefit of these press wheels rather than a shovel to cover the seed, is that they can work through the trash and that they can actually get the clods to just press in rather than having to move them around. Any planter that has the ability to move trash will work, I happened to buy a Matermac because the price was right and it was a unit I had seen actually working.

This video project was funded in part by the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (USDA).  

Published June 3, 2011

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