Zone Till Demonstration

Demonstration of 22-inch, 12-row-wide zone-tillage machines

  • Sponsored by Nebraska Extension, Western Sugar Cooperative
  • May 2010

Will zone-tillage machines work for sugarbeet growers who want to plant their fields in narrower, 22-inch rows in heavy corn residue and wheat stubble? That was the question behind an on-farm demonstration May 25-26, 2010, in Box Butte County, NE, in which zone tillage machines from six manufacturers were operated in real-world conditions. The demonstration was cosponsored by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Panhandle Research and Extension Center and Western Sugar Cooperative.

Zone tillage is a regional form of strip tillage where surface residue is moved aside from the row to facilitate planting, especially shallow-seeded sugarbeets, and to allow the sun to warm the soil in the row area. Zone tillage uses a shank operating 8-12 inches deep to loosen the soil in the row area and to place fertilizer below where the seed will be placed. Strip tillage typically focuses on moving residue from the row area and shallow placement of fertilizer, but not deep tillage in the row area.

Zone tillage has been used for over 10 years in the Nebraska Panhandle for sugarbeets, dry edible beans and corn. It is currently the most popular row crop tillage system used in the Panhandle, estimated to be used on at least 60 percent of the sugarbeet crop in 2010. But it has developed in 30-inch row spacing. Some growers are wanting to change to 22-inch row spacing, but there have been concerns that 22-inch zone tillage machines might not handle the surface residue on some fields, and that the tractor and planter following the 22-inch zone tillage machine will not stay on the row accurately. This demonstration was developed so growers and others could observe how the 22-inch row machines handled corn and wheat residue and how a planter would track behind these machines.

The demonstration was conducted in two fields southwest of Hemingford. Each machine was 12 rows wide with 22-inch row spacing. The equipment manufacturers who demonstrated zone tillage machines include:

  • Blu-Jet by Thurston Manufacturing, Thurston, NE
  • Northside Welding Inc., Paul, ID
  • Orthman Manufacturing, Lexington, NE
  • Schlagel Manufacturing, Torrington, WY
  • Twin Diamond Industries, Minden, NE
  • DMI/Case

Northside Welding also demonstrated an RTK level GPS guidance option on both their zone tillage machine and on a 12-row, 22-inch planter.

Contact author John Smith by e-mail.