Farm Calls: Tillage Tools for “Breaking Ground”

A young farmer in North Jersey gave a call this season to ask if we could swing by a take a look at some land he wanted to bring into production. We arrived to find a worst-case scenario: an old pasture on heavy silt loam soil with densely rooted sod clumps – the ground had not been tilled or mowed in two decades. In addition, there was no plan for a burndown herbicide application since the grower follows organic practices.

New Jersey Ag Agents often field calls like this from beginning farmers with small acreage and urban ag market gardeners who need to perform primary tillage, i.e., break ground for the first time. Working with a limited budget, they face the daunting task of opening up an old pasture like our farmer’s, or soils that are compacted and abandoned. These sites share a common problem. They are too small to bring in a 25-35hp tractor and tillage implements, yet far too large to dig and turn the soil over by hand – even with plenty of volunteers.

Primary tillage using a walk-behind two-wheeled tractor.

Tillage using a walk-behind two-wheeled tractor.


Our cost effective solution for this young farmer was to use an 11hp BCS tiller, AKA, a walk-behind two-wheeled tractor. The BCS tiller with Berta rotary plow can take the place of a small tractor on farm sites that range in size from about a quarter to 2 acres, or even larger. Our young farmer had experience in tillage and was able to break more than half an acre in about 14 hours. Without burndown herbicide, the beds had sod clumps remaining after primary tillage which required 2-3 weeks for the green manure to decompose. In fields mowed and treated a couple of weeks in advance with a burndown herbicide, beds can be ready for planting in a single day after multiple tillage passes.

If you have need for primary tillage on a small land parcel, take a look at the videos demonstrating the BCS tiller.
Part I demonstrates the tiller usage and Part II goes over tiller maintenance and safety.

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