Prepping Your Farm for Winter – Fall Tillage Tips

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/11/2022 - 8:00am

How can I get started on preparing my farm for winter in the fall?

It is never too early to prepare your farm for winter and spring operations, which is why most farmers choose to start preparing right after harvest. With temperatures still warmer than the winter climate, fall is a great time for tillage. This helps aerate the soil and incorporate crop residue before colder temperatures arrive and microbes disappear.



What are the benefits of fall tillage?

The purpose of tillage can vary slightly depending on the area, operation, and goals behind the tillage choice. Fall tillage happens after harvest to break up and loosen the hardpan. This also helps incorporate the crop residue into the soil, aerate soil, and kill weeds. Fall tillage helps prepare a suitable seedbed for the spring planting season. Working the soil helps the field to dry out more quickly in the spring season and allows for earlier planting options.


What kind of tillage method should I use in my region?

Tillage methods are not one-size-fits-all regardless of your region or soil type. Tillage decisions should be made for what works best with your operation and soil health goals.


Primary Tillage

Primary tillage is the main tillage pass after harvest, with the main goal of loosening soil and incorporating the crop residues. These post-harvest, primary tillage passes are usually more intensive on the soil and work depths of 6-inches or deeper.


Secondary Tillage

Subsequent tillage passes after the primary pass are considered secondary tillage. Secondary tillage is usually chosen to incorporate applied fertilizers, level soil surface, or further control weeds. These are less intensive passes with a shallower depth than primary tillage practices.


How do I pick my fall tillage equipment?

There are multiple types of tillage implements available for your fall tillage work. Since each tillage piece has slightly different features, it is important to understand your tillage needs and goals before selecting the agriculture tillage equipment best suited for your operation. While disks and vertical tillage tools are considered primary tillage implements, there are secondary tillage implements available for different situations as well. See each type of tillage equipment’s main features to help you make the right selection.



A disk is one of the most common fall tillage tools. It tills 8-12 inches deep, but the disk does not invert the soil. Disk tillage leaves a rough surface with about 30-40% of residue on the soil surface, which helps with erosion prevention.



Rippers are commonly used to help reduce compaction, improve soil drainage, and promote sustainable soil health. The depth a ripper operates varies by the specific model, but on average, a ripper will bury residue up to 15 inches deep. A ripper does not disrupt the soil surface as much as other methods, like a chisel plow, but it will require higher horsepower per square foot of the tool.


Chisel Plow

When looking to disturb less of the soil bed, a chisel plow only goes about 6-8 inches deep when covering the field. With the shorter depth of a chisel plow, about 40-45% of residue remains on the soil surface with this tillage method.


Vertical Tillage

Vertical tillage has quickly grown in popularity over the past 10+ years. A vertical tillage tool lightly works the top 1-4 inches of the soil bed. As the tool passes over the field, it works to chop up crop residue and increase surface area exposure.


Moldboard Plow

A moldboard plow has a depth of 8-12 inches and inverts the soil as it passes through the field. With this aggressive tillage method, less than 15% of residue will cover the soil surface afterward. This tool is not as commonly used as it previously was, however, there are still instances when this is a good tillage choice.


How can I maintain my tillage equipment?

When it comes to tillage equipment maintenance, a little bit of time can go a long way and be the difference between costly repairs or minor fixes. Before heading to the field this fall with your tillage implement, take a few minutes to follow some routine maintenance practices and ensure your equipment’s health.

  • Check any hoses for leaks.
  • Review bearings.
  • Look for cracks on the frame.
  • Check all grease points.
  • Check tires and tire pressure.
  • Closely look over the soil engaging components (ex: disk blades, chisel shanks, etc.).
  • Adjust gang angles as desired.
  • Verify drawbar height before hooking up to a tractor to prevent damage.

If you aren’t comfortable performing maintenance on your equipment, the certified technicians at your local Koenig Equipment can ensure your equipment is field ready when you are with an agriculture equipment inspection. Contact Koenig Equipment today to learn more!


How can I use technology to help with field tillage?

No matter what your fields are like, John Deere TruSet tillage tools can make fall tillage easier by controlling depth and pressure from the driver's seat.



Additional Resources:

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