I thought I knew a lot about tillage until I embarked on my last writing assignment: present readers with a roundup of new tillage tools manufacturers are launching for 2013. As an added touch, I thought I would categorize the tools to make it easier for buyers to compare.
Easy as dirt, right? I could recite the categories off the top of my head. You’ve got the primary tools like discs, rippers, chisel shanks, and combo tools. Then, there are secondary tools like cultivators and harrows used for seedbed finishing. And, the relatively new-fangled ones like strip-till, vertical-till, and no-till.
Just to be safe, I thought I’d do a little research in case I missed anything. Turns out, I had dug myself in a hole. A quick Google search linked me to a PDF called “Tillage Equipment: Pocket Identification Guide,” published by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). I knew I was in trouble when I read the section, “About this guide.” It stated, “The purpose of the guide is to help you identify commonly used farm equipment. Color photos and line drawings will help facilitate communication by providing common definitions and terminology. The page border colors will group the different systems together: Tillage Systems-green. Primary Tillage-red. Secondary Tillage-yellow. Fertilizer/Manure-brown. Combination Tools-blue. Other orange.”
Then I opened up the 74-page digital booklet. The list of tools read something this: chisels (straight points, reversible spike point, sweep, sweep-shovel, or twisted shovel); tandem disc; offset disc; moldboard plow; para-plow; coulters (do you want bubble, fluted or ripple?); cultivators (spike, rotary, or rotary with “light fluff”); harrows (coil tined, pasture, spiked). And, last but not least, fertilizer applicators, including high-disturbance manure injectors, low-disturbance manure injectors, anhydrous applicators, and 101 types of mole knives.
By this time I had dug up enough. I decided to ditch the category approach to my story and just lump all of the “new for 2013” tillage tools together. Categorize them at your own risk. Here’s the pocket guide to help (ftp://ftp-fc.sc.egov.usda.gov/IA/intranet/Tillage.pdf).