Some recent Canadian Strip Till Research — Two year study to Answer Questions on Fertilizer Placement

The questions asked by corn and soybean growers in Canada relate to many of the farmers in the Great Lakes Region and Northern Tier States.  This was published in Field Crop News, Ben Rosser author.  I shortened up some of the questions and comments including findings of our own with our own (Orthman Mfg) studies.  Field Crop News Story was written April 28, 2021.

                           Those Questions:       All of the trials were planted to corn.
1.  How does broadcast P&K compare to Strip Tilled more precise placed fertilizer methods?
2.  Is there a preferred time to strip till, spring or fall?
3.  If a grower applies P&K in the fall with a strip till implement is there any response when splitting part of the load to the planter?
4.  How does yield performance of strip till compare to full width tillage?

The two years of study were carried out in 2019 and 2020.  Mr. Rosser reported that 60lb/ac both of P and K were applied on ten trials with low soil fertility numbers.  The region where the trials were from west of Kitchner, ON to north of Hampton and one site SE of Ottawa.  Soils were sandy loam. loam, silt loam and clay loams.

Example of an Orthman 1tRIPr following Corn

The treatments:
1.  Full width tillage, no P&K added – control
2.  Full width tillage, spring broadcasting of P&K
3.  Full width tillage, 50% spring broadcast and 50% applied with the planter in a 2×2 band
4.  Fall strip till, , shank placement of P&K
5.  Fall strip till, 50% shank placment, 50% spring placed with planter 2×2
6.  Spring strip till, shank placed P&K
Note: Broadcast applications were broadcast between the tillage passes for incorporation.  All treatments received 30lb/ac N as Urea in a 2×2 band on the planter, then later a sidedress operation was carried out to apply the balance of N.

Some of the findings after two years……….

So over the two years of this three year study the yield responses of broadcast P&K compared to no P&K in the full width tillage systems depicted a 15.6 bu/ac yield bump, one site had a very significant jump of 36bu/ac improvement.  Then as they broke it down further with the comparison of spring strip till and placement to broadcast/full width tillage in the spring, the spring strip till yielded 6.7 bu/ac better with three of the ten sites dropping 1 to 2.5 bu/ac.  One site the strip till spring application site yielded just under 20 bu/ac better than the full width tillage.  Attempting to answer the question of fall vs spring applied with a strip till implement; the study shows an overall 5 bu/ac improvement in yields with spring strip till compared to fall strip till.  One site of the ten had a near 9 bu/ac fall off in yield and one site had a near 17 bu/ac bounce.  Last idea covered, if a grower fall applies P&K in the strip, is there a yield response for moving a portion of his/her fertilizer to starter P&K on the planter in the spring?  The ten sites indicated that there was little difference between 50% of the P&K applied with a fall strip till pass and 50% as planter starter relative to all the P&K applied in the fall and no starter in the spring.  Average was a 1.7bu/ac advantage with two sites near 7 bu/ac and 6 sites hovering zero to 5 bu/ac drop off.

What we have observed in the lower 48………

At our Orthman Farm near Lexington Nebraska for two years we set up trials with center pivot irrigated corn, with strip tilling in the fall and applying dry 11-52-0 and 50 lbs K2O in 2009 and 2010 comparing to strip tilled in the spring a liquid program fir both seasons.  The harvest of 2009 crop yielded in the spring strip tilled liquid fertility 17 bu/ac advantage over the fall dry fertility strip till, then in 2010 the spring strip till fertility program out yielded the fall applied in the strip dry program 11.5 bu/acre.  The soils we were dealing with at Lexington were clay loams and moderate to high fertility.  Orthman no longer has access to carry out trials at that site since 2015.

This year at the McNaught farm near Polk, Nebraska under furrow irrigation we have put together numerous studies but one is a fall strip till application of P applied at 75 lbs/ac actual using 11-52-0 compared to a liquid applied program in the spring strip till pass, same hybrid of corn with the same amount of P.  We also have a replicated site of 3 different starter fertilizer blends compared to no starter but all had a liquid blend of N-P-K-S-Zn with the strip till.  This is a study similar to last year (2020) to determine the effectiveness and advantages of starters.  You can review in the Agronomy blog articles by scrolling down to late last fall on this PrecisionTillage website and see those comparisons.

Closing Comments from me the Soils Guy:

What I have observed with our Orthman studies across a span of years (2006-present) and overall 1986 to present, spring strip till with fertilizers applied with the shank of a strip till tool will and has provided yield improvements dry broadcast and full width tillage 98% of the time in that span of 35 years.  In the early years (1986-1999) I observed big jumps especially in first time strip till under irrigation use with compaction alleviation and fertility in the roots pathway up to 50 bu/ac.  All of those observations came from the Western Corn Belt.  During those years of 2000 to 2006 I did see corn yields continue to rise from 190-220bu/ac to 280 bu/ac steadily with shank strip till tools in the Western Corn Belt.  There was three years in Western Nebraska 01, 02 and 03 that drought was a killer to yields but strip till out yielded full width tillage corn 25 to 80bu/acre.  N, P, K placement was all part of the nutrient strategy in those years but heat and lack of help from the sky just toasted corn those three years.  More recently, 2007 to 2020 irrigated corn yields in the Western Corn Belt due to even better fertility management programs, improved varieties, better managed irrigation water corn yields under strip till out shines broad acre tillage systems greater than 75% of the time.  Top notch farmers in both tillage systems can tap and exceed the 300 bu/ac mark.

With the Orthman 1tRIPr system across the United States where corn is being grown for grain and ethanol production as well as feedstuffs, growers are excelling with the use of precision placed fertility in the root pathway.  It is my observation and continuing urging, growers do annual soil testing.  Know what you have in the soil profile to at least 12 inches (30cm), even better look to 24 inches (60cm) and gain from that data for you can grow great crops with less applied N-P-K than the broadcast methods.  How much?  All depends upon using the right products, right time, right placement and the right amount to furnish the crops physiological needs.  It is not a program to dump loads of fertility with the strip till before planting and think it’s all there and ready to go.  Incremental feeding has proven best hands down year after year.  We at Orthman are continuing to study fertilizer placement, why the 1tRIPr is an excellent tool to prepare the soil for a bumper crop (when the Good Lord smiles upon us all) and we work to improve the tools and methodologies.

I am grateful that a group of people in Ontario; Grain Farmers of Ontario and the Canadian Agricultural Partnership funded this three year project to further the information and method of Smart Strip Till Practices and we will see what Field Crop News writes this fall.