Schmeiser Farm Equipment let me demo a Smart-Till aeration machine on our farm. The Smart-Till was 15 feet wide and we ran it on bean stubble and cornstalks, pulling it with a John Deere 8330 at 5.5 to 8.5 mph. We tested it in both corn and soybean stubble and ran an angle between 15 and 20 degrees off the old row.
We ran a 4-tine 15’ Aerway with 1,000 pounds of cement ballast that was hard to get to penetrate and because of the 4-tine system, you have to go slower otherwise or t tends to float and not penetrate. I was anxious to test another type of aeration unit to form an opinion on the technology, its fits and value. Smart-Till was willing to accommodate my request.
I ran the Smart-Till first on bean stubble and the 8330 could easily pull it up and down the hills at 8.5 mph. The Smart-Till created divots while fracturing the soil and then the Phillips rolling harrow behind fluffs the residue, levels the soil and fills rivulets left over from spring. It did a very nice job. But the question that remains will the NRCS object to running a vertical tillage tool in the fall on bean stubble? In this case, that field is being seeded to winter cereal rye.
We then tested the Smart-Till on cornstalks in a field that has been in continuous corn for at least 6 seasons and was combined about two weeks ago. The soil surface was hardened like cement, was rough from heavy pounding rains in June and July and the residue was thick, having accumulated over multiple years. Because of the toughness and roughness we had to drop back to 6 to 7 mph to cross the field. While the machine pulled harder, it did a nice in softening up and leveling the soil surface, pulling out rootballs and crushing and crimping stalks. The tines supposedly shatter the surface 6 to 8 inches of soil as they roll down and into the soil and then twist as they roll out. The end result is better aeration and infiltration.
I don't worry about the NRCS raising a fuss. All of the cornstalks remained on the surface but were anchored down with soil. And before running the Smart-Till, I broadcast a bushel per acre of rye seed and incorporated it with the aeration unit.
The machine worked to my initial expectation. We had a lot of compaction issues from a late and wet harvest followed by pounding rains in June and July. Running the Smart-Till yesterday felt like running over cement. It was rough and tough but the Smart-Till really loosened up the surface. It felt like spongy beans stubble when we were done.
So it was a good experience and I like the end results so far. And with all the soil damage (pounding and erosion) we incurred from heavy rainfall over the summer I would like to run an aeration machine over every acre this fall.