As the saying goes, “April showers bring May flowers” and we’ve had a nice amount of rain so far this month. Kerry and I typically spend rainy days seeding in the greenhouse and sunny days preparing the fields for planting. We use several kinds of tractor implements at Stearns to help us till the fields:
The disc harrow is a rear-mounted implement that drags behind the tractor. It has two rows of metal concave discs that are set at an angle and when lowered into the ground, they cut through the soil and other plant matter. We typically make two passes through the fields with the discs harrow to make sure to sufficiently cut up any weeds or plants from a previous planting so we don’t have unwanted plants growing back. It also helps to loosen up the top layer of soil and makes it easier to use the next two implements.
The chisel plow has four large curved shanks with narrow shovels at the end that are meant to run 7-12” below the surface of the soil. This implement does a great job penetrating deep into the soil to loosen it up with minimum disruption. This helps to reduce compaction in the fields, which is significant to the health of everything we plant.
Much like a rototiller, the spader has a number of curved shanks with wide shovels at the end that spin and work to rotate the top 6” of soil. This helps to move any remaining plant matter below the surface and bring up fresh soil. The soil is then relatively clean of organic matter, fluffy and flat – perfect for planting!
While there is an enormous amount of research that shows the benefits of no-till farming (to both the plants and soil), it would require restructuring current systems and upfront costs for additional materials. For the time being, Stearns will continue to use implements that till the soil, but may potentially consider practicing no-till on portions of the farm as a long-term goal.
I hope you are all doing well and staying safe at home. I look forward to seeing you very soon.
Until next time,