Video Clip: Weed Em and Reap Part 2. High Biomass Reduced-Till System: Sub-Surface Tiller

Organic Agriculture March 25, 2009 Print Friendly and PDF


Weed 'Em and Reap Part 2: Reduced tillage strategies for vegetable cropping systems [DVD]. A. Stone. 2006. Oregon State University Dept. of Horticulture. Corvallis, Oregon. Available at: (verified 17 Dec 2008).


This is a Weed 'Em and Reap Part 2 video clip.


Ron Morse, Virginia Tech. Blacksburg, VA. 

Audio Text

I’m standing in front of the transplanter that we developed here at Virginia Tech. We call it the sub-surface tiller transplanter. Many years ago, as I found out that no-till systems work, we had to do it all by hand. Of course, that’s fine for a small plot, but its impossible for anything commercial. We set out then, to find someone who would make it and no one would. Eventually I began tinkering myself and eventually put together several models. It has two distinct components, the upfront sub-surface tiller part and then the transplanter that trails behind.

This here is the fertilizer coulter and oftentimes, you need an even wider coulter. This one is 20 inches. The residues sometimes are very, very thick and so you have to slice them. But sometimes when you get real high residues it’ll get caught up in this hub and the newer models we sell of the sub-surface tiller transplanter come with a 24-inch coulter. And even sometimes to give better soil loosening capacity, we can put a wavy coulter also back there. That’s what this is here.

This is a fertilizer knife that’s used to loosen the soil. This particular one has a wing on each side, about an inch wide. This, as it works through the soil, loosens it. In a heavy soil or any compacted or rocky soil, this soil-loosening device is absolutely essential. When we plant no-till, organic potatoes, we need a very large, in-row area loosened and we use a shank that’s much more aggressive. It has wings out here about four inches on each side. And when that runs through the soil, it will really loosen the soil. You can put your hand down in it and it’s just like a sand pile. And that’s needed to allow the potato to grow without restriction.

This is the Holland 1600 model transplanter that has been modified to plant in high-residue systems. This double disc coulter up front is used to slice the residues and slice the soil. This is the shoe and inside the shoe we have a little ring that holds the drip tube as it comes through. These are the press wheels. This is not the press wheel that came with the planter. Normal press wheels have the pressure on the outside. We had to reverse that. So we made a very heavy-duty press wheel with inside metal pressure here. That way when soil is loosened and opens it, you press it back with this press wheel.

This is a weight basket. In tight situations, you have to have extra weight for it to close the soil around the plant.

The sub-surface tiller also has the capacity to lay drip tubing. This is the drip-tubing reel that holds about 7000 feet of drip tubing. This then goes down and goes through the transplanter.

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.