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University of Minnesota Extension

Tillage implements

The purpose and ideal uses for tillage implements

Tillage is the mechanical manipulation of the soil with the purpose of:

  • Managing crop residue

  • Incorporating amendments

  • Preparing a seedbed

  • Controlling weeds

  • Removing surface compaction and rutting

On this page:

  • Popular implements
  • Common tillage depths
  • Number of passes needed to prepare a seedbed
  • Crop residue coverage expectations during the spring
  • Emerging technological advances
  • Environmental factors
  • Methods to leave more residue

Different tillage implements


The impact of tillage


Individual field conditions

There isn’t one tillage management system that’ll work for every field. Factors such as soil moisture and physical characteristics, slope and crop rotation play a vital role when deciding which implement is best for each field.



  • When possible, wait until spring to till, especially on fields with soybean residue. Where fall tillage is conducted, use systems that are done on the contour and leave 40 to 50 percent residue.

  • Reduce the number of tillage passes.

  • Set chisels and disks to a shallower depth.

  • Use straight points or sweeps on chisel plows instead of twisted points.

  • Plant a cover crop, especially after low residue or early-season crops.

  • Spread residue evenly with the combine.

  • Minimize tillage operations up and down slopes.

  • Avoid working the soil when it’s wet.

Jodi DeJong-Hughes, UMN Extension educator and Aaron Daigh, soil scientist, North Dakota State University

Reviewed in 2022

Page survey

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