Tiller Talk: How to Select the Right Three-Point Rotary Tiller for a Tractor?

Land Pride

How do you select the right rotary tiller for your property, garden or food plot? A tiller that’s compatible with your tractor? A tiller well suited for your soil conditions? And that’s built to last — with regular maintenance of course? To pick the right tiller, there are several factors you should consider. Read on for selection tips…

Forward or Reverse Rotation?

As a first step, choose between forward or reverse rotation. A reverse-till model will do a much better job in seed bed preparation with fewer passes. The forward-till model will handle rocky soil conditions better. But not all manufacturers offer both a forward- and reverse- rotation model. That could limit your search.
Reverse tilling action helps bury the residue as well as large clods of dirt, and deposits the fines on top. Forward-till models tend to leave larger clods closer to the surface, requiring additional passes to achieve similar results. Additionally, reverse-rotation tillers pull against the direction of travel, digging deeper and performing better in dry, hard soil or virgin ground. Forward-rotation tillers are good in existing garden spaces or well-aerated soils.

Rocky soil is not good for reverse-rotation tillers though. Reverse-till models will pull rocks up and over the rotor and can cause significant damage to the hood or the tines. In these conditions, your choice is limited to a forward-rotation model.

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Gear vs. Chain?

When selecting a rotary tiller, there are two drive options: chain drive and gear drive. Both options have merits. Each drive option offers rotor speeds around 200 revolutions per minute, which is more than adequate. Gear-drive tillers put more torque to the ground but require more horsepower — in some cases up to 23 percent more horsepower — depending on tiller width and tractor model.
Both drive systems are easy to maintain. Both are durable. However, should a chain failure occur, you can get a chain from most implement dealers and be back up and running the same day. That cannot be said for gear-driven models where, even if the parts are shipped overnight, you’ve lost at least a day.

Four or Six Tine?

The number of tines per flange on the rotor varies by manufacturer and model and should be a point of consideration too. The more tines, the more horsepower required to turn the soil. Similar to the example above, a typical six-tine-per-flange tiller can require 13 to 23 percent more horsepower than a comparable four-tine model. That means a typical 5-ft tiller with four tines can be run by a 25-hp tractor and the same 5-ft tiller with six tines could need a 31-hp tractor to operate at peak performance. The bigger the tiller, the bigger the disparity in horsepower. That should factor into your buying decision.

Other Considerations when Buying

Some tiller manufacturers offer models that offset to the right as you sit in the tractor seat. Offsetting your tiller allows you to get close to buildings or fence lines while keeping your tractor a safe distance away. While this feature is not a necessity for all owners, offset capability is usually not a big cost adder and is nice to have when you need it.

Dealers are an important part of the equation when buying a tiller or any tractor implement for that matter. Knowledgeable dealers are going to help ensure the tiller you’ve selected will work with your tractor, is right for your soil conditions and is right for your intended use.

Parts and service are important too. Implement dealers are going to be there for service after the sale. That internet company four states away may not. A dealer will be there for any warranty issues too. Speaking of warranties, they vary greatly by manufacturer. Make sure you understand what it covers, for how long, and who is responsible for doing the repair.

Tillers take a beating in a dirty, hostile environment. Dirt is the enemy of bearings and other moving parts. Manufacturers offer a suggested maintenance schedule in their operator’s manuals. They are meant to be followed. Check oil in gearboxes, grease drivelines and pivot points before and after use, replace wear items like skid shoes and tines and touch up the paint to prevent rust. With proper care, your new rotary tiller will last for years to come.

Dee Warren is Land Pride’s vice president of marketing and internal operations.

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