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AP71 Agrowplow deep ripping
Agrowplow AP71 ripping in sandy soil

Things to Consider When Deep Ripping

In this guide, we explore the important factors to consider before undertaking the significant process of deep ripping. By understanding these elements, you can maximize the benefits of deep ripping for your farm.

Deep Ripper Configuration

Tynes, Layout and Spacings:

Finding the right spacing and tyne layout is important to make the ripping process easier and more efficient. Tynes will interact with each other and work together to loosen more soil when they operate in close proximity, reducing the overall effort needed to pull the ripper. However, if the tynes are spaced too close, the benefit decreases, and it becomes harder to pull the ripper through the soil because the tynes get overcrowded. Side by side, “V” configurations and shallow leading tyne (SLT) layouts all impact soil disturbance and draft requirements differently.

Rigid and Hydraulic shanks on Agrowplow deep rippers

Breakout: Rigid or Hydraulic

To protect the shanks and plough frame from damage when encountering obstacles hidden underneath the soil, deep rippers feature either a rigid or hydraulic 'breakout' design which forces the shank out of the ground as it hits the obstacle, requiring either manual or automatic resetting.

Shanks with high breakout ratings are crucial for effective and efficient deep ripping. The Agrowplow #9 shank features huge breakouts of up to 6,214 kg (rigid) and 1,846 kg (hydraulic) at the blade.

Learn More: Rigid vs Hydraulic Shanks

Inversion Shanks:

Traditional ripping generally focuses on breaking compacted layers without altering the soil profile. Inversion ploughing is a form of deep tillage that use inversion shanks to intentionally turns over the soil layers, burying crop residues and exposing fresh soil. The choice between the two depends on specific soil conditions and farming objectives.

Shank Options and Attachments:

Various implements such as coulters, inclusion plates, mulch blades, sweeps and furrowers can be fitted to the shank to achieve different soil management outcomes. For example, research has shown that attaching inclusion plates to the rear of deep ripper shanks, could deliver increased crop yields from deep sandy soils.

Read: The Benefits of Shank Options for Deep Ripping
Agrowplow Flexi-Roller smashing soil clods behind AP71 deep ripper

Soil Rollers

Soil rollers like the Agrowplow Flexi-Roller can be trailed behind a deep ripper to break up soil clods and lightly pack the soil before seeding. Freshly ripped soil is prone to re-compaction if sown too soon. Using a soil roller firms the soil, creating a smooth, firm surface that helps prevent seeds from being sown too deep into soft soil. This process ensures consistent seeding depth and improves crop establishment.

READ: The Ultimate Soil Roller
Agrowplow deep ripper in sandy soil

READ: The Benefits of Deep Ripping

Deep ripping can lead to increased crop yields and healthier soil. In this guide, we explore the benefits of deep ripping for improved crop productivity.


Timing: When to Deep Rip

Deep ripping is typically performed just before seeding or cropping to ensure optimal seeding conditions and minimise the risk of wind erosion. However, sufficient time (at least two weeks or more) must be left following deep ripping to allow the seedbed to settle and be ready for sowing, as loosened soils are softer and more susceptible to compaction. If done incorrectly or ill-timed, deep ripping may worsen crop performance or erosion.

Deep ripped shattered soil with soil clods.

Soil Moisture

Deep ripping requires suitable soil moisture conditions. The soil must be moist enough for the tynes to penetrate effectively but not so wet that soil smearing occurs without proper fracturing and shattering. If the soil is too dry, the ground may be too impenetrable and cause undue wear or damage to the plough or cause large soil clods to be brought to the surface. Moisture throughout the working ripping depth is essential to reduce draft requirements and minimise shank and point wear. 

Seasonal Considerations

As not all paddocks respond favourably to annual deep ripping, the practice is typically performed every three seasons or following substantial out-of-season rainfall. The benefits of deep ripping can extend beyond three years when using management strategies like Controlled Traffic Farming (CTF) and implementing a crop rotation that responds positively to deep ripping.

Soil clumps with green shoots

Determining if the Soil is Ready to Deep Rip:

  1. Dig with a shovel to the depth at which you wish to work and remove a section of soil from this depth.
  2. Drop the section of soil on the ground from a height of approximately 450mm and observe how it breaks up.

If the soil breaks into a ‘crumb’ structure, it is ready to be deep ripped. If the pile appears dry, cloddy, and dusty, it will need to be wetter.

If the soil doesn’t break up and appears glazed on the surface, then it is too wet and will need to dry before ripping.

Input Costs

Deep ripping is costly in terms of fuel, time, and tractor size requirements. However, these input costs are offset by positive crop yield increases. Weighing up the economics of deep ripping is a key factor when considering the practice to ensure adequate justification of the large costs generally involved.

Tractor Size and Fuel

Deep ripping requires heavy diesel fuel usage, and the ripping depth dramatically influences draft requirements. Agrowplow recommends approximately 20-30hp per tyne/row, although this is a guide only for ideal soil conditions. Draft requirements can be reduced by up to 18% by utilising a plough with a shallower leading shank design, such as the AP91 or AP92 series ploughs. Some farmers opt to reduce the amount of tynes on their ripper to alleviate strain on the pulling tractor.

Narrow shanks, such as Agrowplow’s #9 Shank, minimise tractor hp and feature cheap replaceable shinguards that help protect the shank from premature wear and tear.

Operating Speed

Deep rippers will produce the best response when operated between 2 and 6 km/hr (1.2 - 3.7 miles/hr). Operating slower than this risks not achieving the desired soil-shattering effect, while higher speeds will increase soil surface disturbance, reduce shank penetration, and increase blade wear.

Ripping Depth

Most deep rippers have a working depth of between 30 and 60cm. Working depth will vary depending on the soil type and conditions. Working too shallow will have a minimal effect and will increase surface disturbance. Working too deep may cause the shanks to ‘lay back’, particularly on hydraulic recoil models, or cause excessive shearpin failure on rigid models.

AP81 with 23 hydraulic shanks

Determining Ripping Depth

The ripping depth needs to be deeper than the targeted hard pan or compacted layer. Exploratory digging with a shovel may be necessary to determine the depth of the compacted soil layer. Working depth is controlled via depth wheels on the plough which are either manually or hydraulically set. The blades should be positioned to rip under the hardpan, rather than through it, to minimise blade wear and reduce the tractor's workload.

Ploughing Virgin Land

Ploughing new or virgin land at full depth risks encountering rocks or roots just below the surface. Ripping in multiple passes and gradually increasing the depth each pass will mitigate issues when encountering obstructions. Passes can follow the same trench, offset, or be angled, each with a different effect.

Other Soil Constraints

The effectiveness of deep ripping in enhancing crop growth and yield heavily relies on soil type. Deep ripping is generally more successful in soils with compacted layers caused by machinery or livestock than in soils with inherent chemical or physical constraints.

If the soil has additional issues such as acidity, natural high strength due to excessive sodium (sodicity), or high salt levels (subsoil salinity), the benefits of deep ripping will be limited. However, using top-soil slotting equipment such as inclusion plates to introduce ameliorants at depth while ripping may improve the management of these subsoil constraints.

Soft Soil Retention Strategies

The benefits of deep ripping can last for several years but diminish over time due to traffic-induced re-compaction, natural soil settling, and nutrient and water depletion by previous high-yielding crops.

AP81 ripping through field with surface cover

Surface Cover

Retaining crop residue, such as stubble mulch on the surface and in the root system below, protects the soil from wind and water erosion. It will also improve moisture penetration and retention and heat retention. The root systems of previous crops add valuable organic matter to the soil and allow more effortless penetration of new root systems.

Agrowplow Deep Ripper working on CTF tramlines in broadacre farm

Controlled Traffic Farming

Controlled Traffic Farming (CTF) is a farming technique that creates a series of permanent ‘tramlines’ (wheel tracks) on predefined spacings. This system separates traffic zones exposed to compaction from the wheels of heavy machinery and dedicated crop zones protected from traffic.

CTF is crucial to maintaining the long-term benefits of soil amelioration from deep ripping and maximising the benefit of the large investment required.

Ripping will need to be performed less often due to less subsurface compaction from traffic and will only need to be performed from eventual natural soil settlement. Deep ripping benefits have been observed in some conditions to persist for up to ten years on a fully CTF-operated farm.

Further Reading:

Agrowplow AP81 broadacre plough with shanks in soil towed behind John Deere tracked tractor

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