Photo Blog

Corn is finally taking off in the Western Corn Belt

Use of a Dickey-John cone penetrometer – Courtesy Pioneer Seed

We at Orthman have been out in the field collecting some very important data to verify with real numbers what the soil conditions are with Strip Till, especially in irrigated soils.  With the plentiful rains this spring which have been a Godsend for some and a deluge of too much for others across the Western into the Central and Eastern Corn Belt, the soils are exhibiting the issue of compaction and nitrogen either leached away from the upper root zone or way deep.

We are studying what soil resistance values are in the upper 15 inches to better express what we have seen for years as anecdotal information.  This time of the season is near perfect for running these tests.  As a soil scientist I have used soil penetrometers to identify where compaction exists and how thick those layers can be.  This season we are studying eight different soil textural types, three tillage methods; including No-Till or Direct Seeding, Conventional full width tillage and Strip-Till with the 1tRIPr (Orthman’s strip till implement).  With what we have collected so far the data is quite remarkable.  Our plans are to complete sampling and collection of data by the 21st of June.  So stay tuned but for sure visit our booth/stand at the 2019 Husker Harvest Days near Grand Island, Nebraska the second week of September.  We will be sharing it as a special program for visitors of the Orthman Manufacturing, Inc. stand.  The value of having this data should really tell growers some valuable clues on their tillage practices which influence, soil health, growth of crops and water management.

If I may, a suggestion is to check with your Territory Representative for Orthman by email, text or a phone call and chat with him about what we are discovering and what is this all about.  OR… communicate directly with me, Mike Petersen and I am glad to visit because this information has long term ramifications on your farm.  Even those of you that have used the No-Till method will be quite interested in what is happening below the surface.

Precision Planting on the Strip – Not Only in the States But As Well in Africa

As we spoke to dozens of farmers in South Africa during the week of May 14-17, 2019, they reiterated that in a drier climate than much of the Corn Belt of the States, planting directly in the center of the strip created by the Strip Till machine was of extreme importance.  Their experiences shared were quite dramatic on how the crop grew to yield but how well the root expansion and depth made all the difference of having a crop for profit.  I asked the question partly knowing the answers – why?  A percentage of the growers across the Atlantic do not have RTK guidance and when they plant with varied spacing due to using the tram line methodology and getting off either due to contours in the rolling country or lack of guidance the yields dropped on the order of 8 to 15%.

Strip till and planter in one pass

Strip tilling and placing nutrients at 7 inches (180mm) deep hits the sweet spot.

Let us figure quickly on the average of what kind of cost that would be: on a 2000 hectare corn farm for example, that is a loss of 74.1 tons not produced.  Today’s price is $153+ per ton USD $11,340.00 USD or total in Rand for South Africa of $160,990.00.  A significant loss for the South African growers of maize.  Causes; in the Orange Free State and parts of Transvaal the soils can have a water table down at depths of  1 to 1.25 meters and having the root extend down through the loamy sand soils to that depth can insure a decent crop. Capillary action will fluctuate up enough so the roots drink freely to a depth of 700 mm and the corn does quite well.  Irrigation is spotty from ground water unless the farmer has developed small reservoirs and catch rainfall for overhead center pivots.  So considering what the prices of a RTK guidance system are in this day and age, we spoke of how quick the return on investment could be.

What does all this have to do with an American farmer?  As a friendly reminder to all you ladies and gentlemen growers, we at Orthman want to bring attention to the methods we use in the States having great value.  Farmers that are growing let us say 4000 acres of just corn at today’s prices, guidance to keep “on the mark or in the zone” if you will, the practice and electronic equipment really pays season after season.  As we visited more with the South African farmer and the subject went to fertilizers and placement – all those factors can be multiplied for yield if not Strip tilling and placing nutrients.

Coming back home to the States to the Western Corn Belt the message is clear, precision farming has definitely made a difference and will continue to do so.  We at Orthman Manufacturing carry a message that being “on the mark” has great return both for plant health and for return on investment for you, all across this great nation where corn is grown.

Contact us, at your Orthman dealer, via this site by your Territory Managers, myself – Mike Petersen, we would love to visit, email or take your call.

From Nampo – Biggest Farm Show in Southern Hemisphere

Greetings from Nampo-2019
After a long flight we are here to work with the guys chatting with growers from all over South Africa, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana and even China. Maize, sunflower, soya, sugar cane, both forage and grain sorghum are the crops that center our conversations. The big topic that the growers are concerned with is diesel fuel savings when they realize the what the Orthman 1tRIPr system is able to provide. A grower told us today that his savings was 55% compared to his conventional 4 pass system had been. That kind of savings is huge. Then the man said “Wait, my fertilizer has dropped by 45% and the 55% is the minimum savings, other farms it is a savings in diesel consumption by 75%.”
I ask what kind of savings when diesel fuel prices are high for your farm? Fewer passes, less wear’n tear, maintenance all are important. Stories similar are all week here at the show.

Orthman brings savings in many facets of what you do out on the farm. Time, labor, overhead, and soil erosion all are savings of great value. Come visit your Orthman to find out how the premium advanced conservation system works for you.

Let’s Talk About Fertilizer Placement in Reference to Early Season Growth

Continuing with sound information and data for those of you working to make the Strip-Till system you have the best and most productive or what you anticipate for the future.  I have loaded up another Spring  Fact Sheet to offer you more information on placement of fertility for the early to mid-season crop growth.  This fact sheet is the second in a line up of six we want to offer in 2019.

Fall strip till with Orthman 1tRIPr

Courtesy C&B Operations / Rock County Implement, MN

Please click on the link we have provided you to download or just read while you are here at PrecisionTillage.com.

2019_Spring Fact Sheet_NutrPlacement

Nutrient placement continues to be a subject that has brought a lot of discussion in circles of the fertilizer industry as well as blogs from naming a couple; No-Tillers, Poor Dirt Farmers.  These groups are wanting to interact with you the grower and also provide information.  Please read this from us that we add to the conversation with first hand experience, field testing and interaction with some good people in the Fertilizer Industry.

Our view is to give you what we know to work in pre-plant nutrient placement as well as in-crop fertility.  Hang in there with us at Orthman as we offer more of these Fact Sheets into the days and weeks ahead.

Don’t forget we are on FaceBook too.

WE have developed some Agronomy Fact Sheets – Take A Look!

Mike Petersen here to offer a bit of something different to read, print or save in your files. 

I have developed a series of agronomic Fact Sheets to pass on to you, offering some basic tenets of what Orthman Manufacturing and Precision Tillage.com sees as aids to your today’s soil management program.     Use your mouse to left click on the link (just below), then for some it will need to be opened in a new window.  Then if so desired you can print it or read as you see fit.    It is a PDF so you can print easy.

 

OrthmanSTDifferences_root-dim_study_for-PrecTillage  

Jodi DeJong-Hughes and Dr. Biegler (both of Univ.Minn) tell of Strip-Till Benefits

I have worked with Jodi DeJong-Hughes for sometime now (>10years) and I respect her and she carries a lot of weight in the Minnesota Extension Service with her educational prowess and passion to promote Conservation Tillage.  Jodi believes it, speaks on the subject very well, advocates all the tenets of Strip-Till and will ask you face to face “why don’t you do it?”  Please read the article that is attached by a hyperlink right here on Precision Tillage.com regarding some information she shared here a couple years back. Yes it is very pertinent today folks.  I have spoken at her Winter Conservation Tillage Workshop several times now and we at Orthman Mfg call her a good friend in the business.  The conference I refer to is every winter in cold, cold Minnesota.  Enjoy by clicking on the link below.

http://www.mncorn.org/2016/10/13/farmers-foster-soil-health-to-fight-wind-erosion/

Jodi thoroughly likes to get down into the soil pit and describes what she sees and does it with flair.  Someone like the ole soils guy Mike Petersen who writes here and has been in over 1650 soil-root pits.  Two gophers for sure.

What Multiple Years (>17 yrs) of Continued Strip Till Activity Does

This gallery contains 5 photos.

Orthman 1tRIPr maintains residues and tills between the rows each year, moving 15 inches each year.

I have waited for some time to get this out to you all.  In loam textured soils (22% clay, 47% silt, 31% sand) where a continuous strip till program has been going for over 17 years as of 2019 with continuous corn for 14 of those years, please take a look at the diagram below of what the soil density is when moist in the late spring of 2018.  This grower in Eastern Colorado strip tills each spring prior to planting anywhere from 1 week to 5 weeks prior to placing seed in the ground.  We then checked with a constant reading penetrometer what the soil resistance was in 5 locations at depths of 0 to 12 inches across a 30 inch row system. 
This way we could see what were the remnant effects of 2017 tillage compared to 2018 strip till pass which was completed 2.5 weeks prior to planting in 2018.  The penetrometer measured soil resistance to a steady downward force of approximately 1 inch per second.  Not to kid you any either, when you push like that at 145lbs drippin’ wet and the resistance is 300 psi – hey that takes effort folks!  That methodology is the standard method, so giving a penetrometer a big shove does not represent what kind of force of resistance is truly looking the root square in the eye.

So in 2018 the strip till rig was pulled at 10 inches deep.  As you see in the above diagram right in the row where the corn is depicted to be growing at the V3-V4 stage at 12 inches the soil penetration resistance jumped to 265 pounds per square inch.  Then as you look to the right, where the probe is, last years effects are a little higher than where it is compared to site #1 off 30 inches to the left.

I do not have a comparison of what a soil penetration profile looks like where no strip tillage tool has run.  This diagram offers a below the surface look at what is occurring within a continuous strip tilled field.  When we used this tool the soil moisture was within 5-10% of the field capacity.

Takeaways:
1)  Soil density below 10 inches shows some sign of higher density that could limit to a degree root extension when the soils dry out
2)  In the upper 6 inches the density (by penetrometer) indicates the roots will extend out and down with little to no resistance – a good thing!
3)  Above 100 psi the early root system of corn may exhibit slowed growth, as the crop matures the roots have more “push power” and can extend root tip growth up to 400 psi.
4)  The maximum root depth as of this date in early June (6/10/18) was 19 inches deep – which is excellent.  The plants were at the V-4 stage.

We will be doing more of this kind of field effort, looking into more soil textures and soil conditions this year 2019 to describe more of what the Orthman Strip Tillage system is doing to provide not only an excellent seedbed but the Optimal Root Zone conditions.

 

Improving Soil Health – What Might it Mean to You!

Soil scientist investigating soil structure components in a native grass pasture.

by:  Mike Petersen, Lead Agronomist

As I continue to read, investigate, learn and dig more into soil profiles across this nation I am all flushed with material I want today’s farmers to realize.  The interaction of bacterial, fungus, fungal hyphae, simple photosynthetic bacteria, algae, protozoa, and other microscopic creatures all are important to what your crops can benefit from.  The splatter and news some of you may read about cover crops, more living roots in the soil all have an umbrella approach to this subject of “soil health”.  To get our noses right into the subject – it is what happens biochemically in the soil along with the physical side of soil aggregates making a stable home for all of the microscopic creatures to live, respire and offer to the roots to absorb and thrive from.

As fungal biomass improves in the macroaggregates of the soil profile (I am speaking of the upper 10-14    inches), organic materials become broken down into smaller and smaller particles along with fats/lipids/oils/steroids and some proteins that are sticky to hold silt and clay particles together.  As the individual silt particles and clay particles bond together both by physical forces and electro-chemical bonds, with gravity playing it’s part — soil structural units form.  These structural units of micro-sized blocks and prisms then in time adhere together to form larger blocks, prisms and granules.  As they do our soils allow water to pass in a downward fashion vertically and as that all occurs so will the roots which will exude, slough both dead and living cells, leave smears of organic sugars, peptides, and proteins and strands of a mucous like substance from the root tips to makes soil structural units even stronger and larger.  In a nutshell – soil health and quality improves.

All of this takes some time.  I have observed in continuous strip tillage we can facilitate all of these details of soils regenerating after the change from full width tillage systems.  A caveat, removing from a corn field and baling up for animal bedding is not helping.  To accelerate the soil rebuilding having a mix of crop residues (some left-over residues that are higher in sugars such as sorghums), green living roots, legumes in rotation, where possible and or feasible – cover crops, all will aid in this rebuilding.  As we annually crop fields with too much tillage [full width tilling], multiple passes, removing of all crop matter such in silage harvesting; we set the soils back to something like a war-zone battlefield and unexploded ordinance remains.  A proverbial mess of the soil health.  Yes that is a fairly strong statement, I know.

We at Orthman Manufacturing so believe that conservation tillage by the strip till system works to put soils in a better condition to grow crops and enrich the soil health capacity.  As farmers urge their soils to produce more with precise placement of fertilizers, provide timely irrigation for those areas where irrigation is accomplished, maintaining residues on the soil surface as long as one can we are seeing soil resources produce many, many fold the grain, forage, lint or produce.  Along with this, soils can not only be sustainable, healthy, and very productive for years to come.

2019 Commodity Classic – Ever the wide open experience with the Best Growers

2019 Commodity Classic Serious discussions with Doug Peterson and Pat McNaught, both Territorial Reps.

The 2019 version of the Commodity Classic held in Orlando, Florida brought some very interesting topics of discussion to the Orthman Manufacturing booth this year.  A small group of farmers from North Carolina visited us and see that their soil conditions merit using the strip till system in their soils that can irreversibly harden.  Two farmers from Kentucky in the area  bordering the Karst region of the state and wanting to visit about their soils with ‘fragipans’ and how No-Till has been unsatisfactory.  Their conversation was much to do about water movement in the soil profile as well as root development being retarded from getting deep.  Some folks from Ontario, Canada stopped and visited regarding their strip-till successes and some of their challenges.  Several of the National Corn Grower contest winners stopped who placed either #1 or #2 in the Irrigated No-Till/Strip-Till category and asked for some further suggestions and advice.  That was very thought provoking and allowed us time to congratulate their success since three of them were 1tRIPr owners.  Some folks from the Wasatch Front area of Utah came by and asked about the 1tRIPr and their concerns of pulling so hard, once we found out what their soil conditions were like – oh now we can help.  Had some New York growers stop in and ask would strip till work in their environment.   Spoke with cotton and corn growers from Texas, Georgia, Alabama and 1 from Arkansas.  There were two men who stopped from Australia.  Many men and families stopped from Nebraska, the home of Orthman Manufacturing and were glad to see us in the booth and representing the best strip-till machine on the market, their words not ours but we fully agree with their assessment.  The couple of people I spoke with from central Michigan first were so happy to be where there were temperatures 85 degrees warmer than back up north.  Then we discussed strip-till in the state of Michigan, sugar beets, potatoes, corn and soybeans.  The Illinois growers that stopped by and visited had many questions regarding fertility, prices of fertilizer and fertility effectiveness with the Orthman 1tRIPr.

As you can see we had a smattering of people from all across the United States and then neighbors in Canada as well as Aussies.  One of the major seed corn companies presented in their booth a well thought out and descriptive analysis of root types in corn and how they right now are the only ones I know of that rate their corn hybrid selections on root types.  You all might be surprised who that company is – AgriGold.  Syngenta, Bayer, DuPont-Pioneer, LG; the rest of you growers are asking for the same.  My suggestion to you folks, keep after them to rate root structures as has AgriGold and find out how tillage interacts with better tillage systems and fertility placement.

The 2019 Commodity Classic was great this year.  Not only friends were met with, some acquaintances rekindled and new connections we made.  Stay tuned for Orthman is stepping out to lead the way in Precision Tillage, Precision fertilizer placement,  Root Zone management and as well soil resources management (water and erosion).  Keep in touch as we are not a “me too” company, we are leading.

by:  Michael Petersen, Lead Agronomist-Orthman Manufacturing, Inc.

Aiding and Abetting Organic Carbon Storage with Strip-Till

Early February 2019

Frequently you are hearing and reading about Soil Health and Cover Cropping Systems are the big part of how farmers will improve sustainability, yield and crop production.  Now folks, the two of those titles are not synonymous – that is they are not equal to one another.  They are different yet the two can work together.  Where am I going?  Strip tillage has been found to aid in better macroaggregate development. As macroaggregates function within the soils it is been studied that is the environment where Nitrogen (N) has the greatest amount of turnover and availability to the plant root system (Long-term effects of nitrogen fertilization on aggregation and localization of carbon, nitrogen and microbial activities in soil; YidongWang et al., Science of the Total Environment 624 (2018) 1131–1139,  Elsevier Publications).

What did I just say? As with what we at Orthman Manufacturing like to promote – strip till, when farmers employ, we can aid the process of organic carbon substances accumulate and develop durable macroaggregates (those particles of soil >2mm in size).  These aggregates can withstand rainfall impact better with these organic compounds coating, lying on the surfaces of the macroaggregates.  Fungi interlacing on the aggregates and between other aggregates, glue-like polysaccharides, proteins, fatty acids that come from mycorrhizal growth, certain bacteria dying and releasing substrates that can aid adhering and bonding of soil particles together.  The roots grow along, around and through the macroaggregates accessing accessible nutrients in a readily available form to feed the growing plants.  Image result for mycorrhizal fungi examples

Image #1:  In this image one can see the webbing around an alive root. Looks like cotton in a fashion.  This is a web of mycorrhizae hyphae surrounding the root of an oat plant.

Both the root and the fungal hyphae leak substances similar to what we could call “organic glues” onto the face of the soil ped and macroaggregates. Loaded with carbonaceous materials there is also other ions attached such as N, P, K, S, Mn, Zn, Fe, B etc not held tightly by the electrical bonds within the carbon products – thusly available to the roots.  These glues not only release good nutrients but they hold soils together which can also hold onto water, allow it to pass through easier and allow soils be oxygenated.  All of that promotes healthy soils, hold and release water, maintain soils from any severe mechanical breakdown of soil structure and allow soils to be more healthy.

With strip till we are one time and done prior to planting.  Greatly minimizing soil turnover, sliding, slipping, crushing, tearing and exploding soils with the strip till approach; we allow the process of soil biology work. With conventional full-width tillage there can be 3 to 7 operations in the upper segment of the soil profile before a seed is placed or nutrients are placed before the proceeding crop grows.  Each harsh tillage operation or trip to crush the soil down to the smallest size deteriorates the soil aggregates.  Yes microaggregates are part of the soil medium, they can accumulate nutrients yet they are released very slowly.

Scientists in my profession, soil science, are understanding better with electron microscopes how larger soil aggregates are big-time contributors to the ‘health’ of the soil.  Much of the discussion of soil health

Image #2:  Tight web of fungal hyphae holding soil particles and spores. Dark specks are soil aggregates, yellowish round spheres are fungal spores. Transluscent left-to-right strand is a root. Courtesy: Cornell Univ., T.E. Pawlowska

has only to do with biological factors, those being how do we get more living roots to grow for longer periods of time in the 365 day season.  Yes this is important.  I wanted you to see the value of the soil physical realm and what these microscopic filaments do to enhance soil aggregates and their ability to remain stable.

With Strip-Till we gain larger, more robust root systems in the till zone which contributes to more prolific mycorrhizal growth and associations.  It all ties together for the improvement of your soils to produce and remain viable long into the future.

by:  Michael Petersen, Orthman Soil Scientist