Low/shallow tillage

Low/shallow tillage

Low or shallow tillage uses less intensity and/or less depth in the soil in comparison of ploughing.

In the BeNeLux region, shallow tillage is disadviced because it could cause reduced yields due to the heavy harversters who could cause a compacted layer in the soil.

In the Netherlands a system called 'Non-inversion tillage' is developed. The system is based on non-plouging with deep vertical tillage (25-35 cm) and shallow mixing (4-12 cm). 

Weed control can be a challenge in low/shallow tillage. This article provides information on the control of creeping thistle (English).

3-4-5 method

ZLTO (NL) developed a system to reduce pestice input we call this " 3-4-5 method". it is stale seedbed technique with a more strict definition. This way we get better results on field hygiene.

3-4-5 = 3 times, maximum 4 cm deep and repeat it on day 5. This way we get an intensif cultivated top soil with an high concentration of organic mater.We have good results on insects, weeds and soil born diseases.

In this active mulch layer the soillife is able to produce humus, humic acids and fulvic acids wich help te plant to grow resilient and efficient

This type top-soil also makes mechanical weeding much more effective and creates more workable hours due to a decrease in weather dependence.

The importance of cover crops

Cover crops and their root exudates together with burrowing soil animals take over the job of aerating and forming of aggregates in the soil. The roots of the cover crop facilitate the growth and nutrient foraging of the crop. Water infiltration is better and hence erosion is reduced. Because of increased soil organic matter content, water retention is improved.

However overwintering cover crops are a big challenge in reduced tillage systems. Grassy and legume species are hard to terminate, especially if you can’t rely on herbicides.There are however mechanical strategies. The main goal is to cut the plants at approximately 3-5 cm on the whole surface. The upper plant part should be separated from the roots. To profit form the advantages of cover crops the working depth should be minimized. 

FIBL termination of alfa alfa clover gras (German)


Strip-till is a special form of tillage. With this technique you only work the strips that are going to be sown. The other parts of the soil remain untouched.