Video Clip: Custom-made Zone Tiller from Vegetable Farmers and their Sustainable Tillage Practices


Vegetable Farmers and their Sustainable Tillage Practices [DVD]. V. Grubinger. 2007. University of Vermont Extension. Available for purchase at: (verified 31 Dec 2008).

This is a Vegetable Farmers and their Sustainable Tillage Practices video clip.

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George Ayers, FreshAyr Farm. Farmington, NY.

Audio Text

My name is George Ayres. My wife and I are partners in Fresh Ayr Farm in Farmington, New York. We farm 550 acres, about 100 acres of vegetables, sweet corn and pumpkins, we grow about 5 acres of small fruit that we u-pick and the rest of the farm is small grains and hay. We moved to this farm in 1988 and the tillage system was mostly moldboard plow and chisel. And I was concerned about the quality of the soil, the amount of tillage I was doing, the drying, it dried out so much in the spring. And when I began to see the zone till introduced in this area, I became quite interested in it. And it solved two problems I’d had with no-till when I’d tried it. One was to get the seed slot closed and to get good germination and the second problem was how to put fertilizer down with that seed with no-till. In zone till you are tilling an area of about 6 inches wide every 30 inches and the area in between is not tilled. So the planter and the fertilizer equipment works like it was intended and the area in-between doesn’t grow weeds because you’re not tilling the soil. It’s really worked well for me and so we’ve gradually worked through the whole farm till now everything we grow is zone till.

This is my two-row zone builder that I built a couple years ago for our strawberries. I started with a commercial unit that was four or six rows wide, I needed a small machine for the berries, because they are on 48-inch centers and the commercial machine is 30-inch centers. And it’s so big that it is very difficult to move so this was a project just for our strawberries. This was originally a tool bar that was 15 feet long and I cut it in thirds. I bought a two channel irons and just welded the frame, the hitch of course was already there, I already had it was an old tool bar that used to be on a rotary hoe that we don’t use anymore. These two shanks were from a chisel that I don’t use anymore, I bought years and years ago and I took two off once to make it a little smaller and they just were around so we just simply they just fit right on this. These parallel linkages are just rejects from the commercial zone builder that I had, I just changed it a little bit and I had two of these left over. These can be purchased from the company that built the zone builder. We made the brackets to put it on here and I just steal these coulters, 13 wave coulters from the commercial zone builder, I just put them on when I’m doing strawberries and take them off and put them back on that machine when I’m doing my other work. I did not buy these, you could, but it doesn’t take very long to change them.

This thing goes about 12 to 14 inches deep, the disks just form a ridge right up over the slot, the key to the zone builder whether it's this one, the commercial one, or whatever you do with zone tillage, the key is to do vertical tillage not horizontal tillage. We don’t want the tool that you’re engaging in the soil to be pushing the soil sideways like a moldboard plow, a disk, a field cultivator with sweeps on it cause that’s where you get a compacted layer right where that shearing action is from that sideways motion. Everything on this thing and with zone tillage is a vertical form of tillage - it doesn’t have any sideways shearing, that’s the key.

This video project was funded in part by the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (USDA).  

Published June 3, 2011

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