Many different implements are marketed as shallow vertical tillage tools. All are designed to cut residue at high speed and penetrate 1-4 in. into the soil. But not all are strictly vertical, Dybevik says. “True” vertical tillage tools don’t invert soil or move it from side to side, he says, making them different from disks or field cultivators, which move soil horizontally, as well as vertically, and may create a compaction layer.

Shallow vertical tillage machines consist of smooth, fluted or notched blades, which are mounted straight-up-and-down on the toolbar, either in gangs or individually, and cut a strip about 2 in. wide. Rear finishing attachments, such as tine harrows and rolling baskets, mix some soil with the residue and level the surface a bit. The tillage operation is usually done at a diagonal to the crop rows.

More aggressive implements have angled gangs, narrower blade spacings or concave, curved or rippled blades, which throw more soil sideways. Some models have adjustable gang angles, allowing growers to increase or decrease tillage intensity on the go.

These implements require about 10 hp/ft. to pull, and cost around $2,000/ft., Dybevik says. Ownership, fuel and labor costs run about $10/acre, Michigan’s Staton estimates.