Ideal seedbed preparation – precision strip tillage

Whether your strips are laid in the spring or the fall, the first step to a bin-busting yield is to provide an ideal seedbed.The seedbed is where everything starts!

strip-tillage-widthFirst, make sure that you’re tilling wide enough that your planter can access that smooth, mellow zone. When finished, you want a slight berm to plant on (not too much, though, or you can have trouble keeping the planter aligned.)  Some fall strip tillers advise they seek a larger berm to allow it to ‘settle’ over the winter. Be careful – that could indicate that you have voids below the soil surface, and it will be hard to get even, consistent seed-to-soil contact if that is the case. A properly-prepared strip really won’t settle much.

2010 study in Adrian, MI

2010 study in Adrian, MI.

Number of days since initial emergence. Courtesy Mahdi Al-Kaisi, Iowa State Univ.

Number of days since initial emergence.
Courtesy Mahdi Al-Kaisi, Iowa State Univ.

A precision strip-till seedbed will warm faster and deeper, which helps promote root growth in the spring. By the same token, it will delay the germination of weeds and other ‘unwanteds’ due to the cooler soil and seeds not buried in the soil. Click the images to enlarge.

Strip till left, conventional till right

Strip till left, conventional till right.



It will also drastically reduce wind erosion and water erosion in the field, by leaving standing residue and improving water infiltration – rather than running off, water is absorbed into the strips where it can be stored and used. It also increases organic matter and microbial activity in the soil, helps with residue management, speeds up root growth, reduces compaction (soil density), and reduces input costs. Click the image to enlarge.


Check back for more benefits to precision strip tillage – next week, we will discuss precision nutrient placement! Remember, we welcome your questions and photos – just email them to randyhaarberg at orthman dot com.

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