Great Plains system improves chance for successful crops in challenging drought conditions of South Africa.

“If all is well with the roots, everything goes well,” says Pieter van de Merwe from Kriel in the Eastern Highveld region of South Africa. The main principle he pursues in planning his tillage practices and the acquisition of equipment to do the job is to create the best possible environment for the roots of his corn.

“In the old days, we cultivated the soil with the disc harrow, then the plough, then we levelled it, prepared the seedbed, and then we planted. Later, we tried to skip some of these steps by using chisel ploughs, and then came the no-till craze, but it does not work for everybody,” he says.

Pieter has settled on using three Great Plains machines in his 1,100 ha operation: a Sub-Soiler, a Turbo-Till®, and an 8-row Yield-Pro® Planter. The 8-row SS2000 Sub-Soiler works 400mm deep with shank spacing at 91cm. It removes compaction layers below the soil surface without disrupting the plant residue on the surface. A turbo coulter in front of every shank cuts the plant material and helps materials flow unrestricted through the implement. The berm conditioner on the back of the implement firmly settles the material. The seedbed remains soft and uniform for the roots to develop freely.

The Turbo-Till, a successful predecessor to the even more popular Turbo-Max®, cuts plant material and mixes it with topsoil for quicker decomposition. The Turbo-Till, with its two sets of cutting Turbo coulters, also levels the field on the surface and subsurface for the planter to follow. In using the vertical tillage concepts employed by the Sub-Soiler and Turbo-Till, as well as not removing biological materials, Pieter is able to maintain moisture in his soil. He knows it works because, even after two dry seasons in South Africa, the shanks of the Sub-Soiler still find moisture deep below the surface. Pieter is proud of the fact that despite the drought, he reached an average of 7 tons per hectare on dryland, non-GMO corn seed.

For planting, Pieter employs the Great Plains YP825A Yield-Pro Planter.

“I have never seen such a precise plant population as created by these planters,” Pieter says when talking about his YP825A planter. 

He attributes the precise seed placement to the positive air pressure provided by the Air-Pro® metering system, as well as the Clear-Shot® seed tube that provides a dead drop with no obstructions or delays. A positive air system demands less power than vacuum systems, so fewer things can go wrong, Pieter says.

Another feature of the planter that Pieter appreciates is the spring-loaded steel propulsion wheel that rolls on the ground for fertilizer metering.

Pieter has been impressed with the efforts of both his dealer and Great Plains employees in the USA to help make provisions for South African farming conditions.

As he checks the soil conditions and monitors the climate, Pieter says he may consider planting some seasons without any tillage, now that his farm is so well aerated and full of organic materials. However, thanks to vertical tillage, Pieter knows he will never fear a compaction layer again.



Sub-Soiler: The Great Plains Sub-Soiler works deep, shattering compaction layers and creating a uniform soil structure that enables water and nutrients to flow freely, both up and down and through the soil profile.

Turbo-Till: The Turbo-Till is a shallow vertical tillage tool used to incorporate plant residue into the soil and level the field for the planter to follow – all without creating damaging compaction layers.

YP-825A: This compact 8-row planter boasts yield-increasing technologies like Air-Pro Metering, 25 Series Row Unit and Clear-Shot seed tube.  A variety of row spacings, including twin-row, is available in both 4-row, 6-row and 8-row machines.