Defending the Land Blog

To Shank or not to Shank: Choosing the Right Row Unit

Many farmers are accustomed to doing deep, horizontal, full surface tillage. But with an increasing number of growers researching strip-till, many are asking themselves what type of tillage system is best for their soil.

The great news is ETS manufactures SoilWarrior row units that provide tillage using a cog and coulters or a coulters and shank. Depending upon soil conditions and individual farm goals, each system serves a different and valuable purpose.


The SoilWarrior N row unit uses coulters to prepare a precise seed bed and comes with the option to attach a shank and knife to break through compaction and apply anhydrous ammonia.


“In order to get through high residue with a shank and knife you need a coulter to cut the residue in front of it,” says Kevin Kuehn, ETS product support manager. “The coulter is necessary to allow the residue to flow through the row unit. If a producer wants to apply NH3, the shank and knife is mandatory.”

Shanks are also sometimes needed for certain soil types and conditions. Compacted soils with poor structure may require it to penetrate through the compaction layer. Kuehn says sandy soils generally don’t require a shank unless farmers are putting on anhydrous.

“The combination gives the farmer more options for different soil types and moisture issues,” adds University of Minnesota Extension Specialist Jodi DeJong-Hughes. “Shanks will band apply the nutrients in a concentrated zone about 4-6" below the seed.”


The SoilWarrior X row unit is designed for tillage in either a deep or shallow tillage system. In the deep configuration, a large cog can churn soil up to 12 inches. For a shallower option, the cog is replaed with shallower-cutting wavy coulters. Some farmers who don’t need the deep tillage run the coulter-only system both spring and fall.
Kuehn says it can be difficult for farmers to make the change to coulter-only zone-tillage because they’ve been so accustomed to doing deeper tillage. But an increasing number of farmers are recognizing the benefits because of comparable or higher yields and improved soil structure.

“Some clients are using less deep tillage as time goes by because the health of their soil is improving and the need for deep tillage is reduced,” Kuehn adds. “Coulter tillage promotes the earthworm population, and they do their job of building soil health, reducing compaction and improving water infiltration.” 


Photo taken by ETS customer Dave Delhotal on his farm.


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