Mike Petersen

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.



When does Strip Till Makes a Difference – At planting time A quick Video…

Spring time in the Western Corn Belt.  Strips completed by the Orthman 1tRIPr just two weeks prior.  Watch the planter.  Smooth as glass so depth control is as close to perfect as you want.  This is part of what we at Orthman want your planting process and days to be like after your Strip Till pass.  An Ideal Seedbed!
Click on the link below, it is about 30 seconds long, then click on where it downloads to your screen and then start the video.

2019 Planting in STill

2019 Planting Season Is Upon Us

Here in the Northern Latitudes of the terrestrial body we find ourselves living on comes this time when North American farmers get all wound up, nervous, antsy and focused.  The present day mentality is to plant everything in 10 days once the tractor pulls the planter loaded

out of the yard and enters his first field.  We know in many parts of the country the soil is only 49 degrees F. at 3 inches.  At these what I call cold soil temperatures the helpful soil microbes are pretty much shivering and asleep.  Those bacteria are absolutely essential to work on the organic products and the added nutrients in the seed trench, over the top or off to the side of the placed seed.  We have seen with strip till a grower that follows that same tilled area with his planter (GPS guided) the soils are usually warmer by 1 to 7 degrees F., softer for the planter ride and then consistent seed depth and spacing.  Having soils that are 49 versus Strip Tilled fields the zone is 55 or better.   Planting in warmer conditions provides a condition for even germination with nearly every seed placed in the row, offering the seedling root a chance to grow longer and deeper to feed the baby plant and start every mornings photosynthesis cycle as the sun touches the green plant that erupts through the soil.  BUT the calendar says it is April 20-something and we gotta go.  I could give you the chemical breakdown of fertilizers and how the biochemical processes works better and induces switches in the DNA of every corn plant or soybean plant to give consistent growth, but those of you driven by the calendar – it makes no difference to you.  For those of you that want to be sound conservationists and top notch growers to maximize your potentials – I applaud you for considering how the initial soil health and physical condition of the soil is taken into account.  For you men and women will succeed and be the innovators and growers to enlighten your children and grandchildren to carry the banner of farming long into the days ahead.

We at Orthman urge a more scientific approach to this years planting plan.  Hopefully the strip till tool is part of your program along with wise pre-plant fertility.  As a soil scientist and one who loves to look below the soil surface with a view like a worm would see if it had eyes (fortunately I have two of them) and observing physical processes, evidence of biological activities and knowing that the interaction of microbes, roots, worms and other invertebrates I know allowing the soils to warm naturally and not getting ahead of all that is very wise.

One of the most interesting ideas that has come of the Soil Health movement here in the United States and Canada is slowing down to observe and pay heed to the life that goes on in the first 12 to 16 inches (30 to 40 cm) of your soil profiles.  Working with the soils abilities to actively provide nutrients and sustainability for plant growth has never been a dumb idea, but being in a hurry can set you back more than you know.  Contact an Orthman representative or me and we’d love to visit about the approach that works with the soil biological system – that being Strip Tillage.

Improving Soil Health – More of what it can mean to You!

Without apologies I believe we can continue to discuss that what we promote with Strip-Tillage in United States row crop farming is helpful and sustainable.  There are those that may disagree, that is fine and cross their arms across their chests in a harumpf style and shake their heads no.  In today’s agriculture I would ask all to consider a few thoughts and have a open mind for 10 minutes.

I ask what do we carry out a tillage operation for?  Is it for getting rid of every ounce of left over residue from the previous crops because that is what daddy and granddaddy before him did?  Is it because it is unsightly?  Is it because I have to have all residue off the soil surface or I cannot irrigate?  Is because my soils set up like a rock if I don’t?  Reason for that with too much tillage.  I need to bury the weed seeds from the weed explosion I had last season?  My goodness I can repeat reasons and more reasons or should we say excuses for wanting to be out on the tractor.  It has been told to me by tens and twenty’s of growers at any one time they are not deemed to be farmin’ unless they are on a tractor – oh what a wrong perception of a farmer.  Those thoughts of why folks do broad acre tillage and many times in one season make little sense in row crop farming even on nearly flat fields.

Soil Health means you take care of the soil physical properties as well as the chemical and biological.  But some are focusing only on the bio side.  Hey I understand that the biological is very important and has implications of fertility, disease-wise, soil temperatures, water holding in the surface few inches and down into the sub-surface, organic matter improvements and more.  But being a scientist of the physical bent I would like to turn your eyes and head to consider for a bit to the physical side.  Now I am not choosing sides here folks.  All three major facets of the soil resource – chemical, biological and physical are valued highly and mean a great deal in the realm of Soil Health.  Can anyone of us truly impact pore space without first offering a less resistant soil matrix early in the life of a row crop (corn, sorghum, soybeans, sunflowers, dry edible beans, sugar cane, cotton) to offer to the plant a medium in the first 40 days of life?  Some will argue till their face turn somewhat blue.  With strip till we disrupt the soil condition with a movement of the soils that does not roll, tumble, and smash the soils which quickly degrades soil micro and macroaggregates into mush.  We are tilling soils to make a good quality seedbed, a strip that will allow roots to expand and grow downward with gravitational pull ( a true constant in the universe).  We disrupt lateral settling which layers silt and clay particles to form lenses up to 1 inch thick in the upper portions of the soil profile in one season, [much like what you can see in the image to the left.]  Too much hoof action across the soil surface when fall-winter grazing stalks can be the cause.  Applications of water via irrigation or big rain events (>2 inches) that settle out at the end of the wetting front time after time will do something similar, especially in silty textured soils.  This can happen in sandier textured soils also, have seen this in the Sandhills of Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas.  The effect will slow water movement dramatically and can affect early root development if not dealt with properly.  Now that does not mean get the subsoil toolbar out and go to ripping stuff up and burning gallons of diesel guys and gals.
Fig. 1.  Shallow tillage most likely resulting from multiple passes with disk.

In the image above with the hard pan, you can take note of the vertical cracks and soil structure which allows for downward flow of water and root growth.  The location of the hardpan slows water and root movement  almost exponentially.  Water will impact the surface soil above it in several manners; 1) when it supersaturates the soil above it to 125-140% of its water holding capacity the soil becomes like a gel.  More large rain drops act like miniature quakes and settle out silts right on top of the existing pan.  This adds a very thin layer (usually less than 1/16th of an inch thick) which are likes thin leaves stacked in alternate direction atop one another – making water movement downward very tortuous.  Bad news!  So what’s the big deal?  To inform you that this kind of a soil health issue is problematic for water movement, root development, root uptake of water and nutrients, soil living organisms to eat, breathe and populate.  Roots do not do well, plant development suffers – especially row crops.  If the soil textures are clayey (>35% clay) and these conditions persist a grower has problems.

So it takes a little bit of digging, seeking out what is going on in your fields, being

Overtilled soils exhibit crusting like this.

cautious when tillage operations are accomplished to avoid the start of a hardpan.  Another bit of evidence that tillage has been excessive is the crusting effects like in the image to the right.  This is a fine example of soils becoming jelly-like and then slowly water evaporates away leaving these soil conditions of the near surface.  Not a good thing at all.

Leaving last years residues on the ground surface can nearly eliminate this soil condition.  As we leave a portion of the field untouched with a Strip-Till rig we leave the old root channels in place to become stabilized, allow worms to move up-down and laterally, other insects to have their homes not destroyed, old roots to dissolve and leave organic compounds behind is all part of adding to the improvement of soil health.  We influence vertical water movement with the Strip Till action as well as lateral movement of water into the area where no tillage tool ran to fill that part of the soil reservoir which aids the crops potential and root uptake.

All of this is the kind of conversation I love to illustrate at soil pit demonstrations that we at Orthman like to get involved with.  We team up with our dealerships, partners in the Seed Business and even fertilizer partners to get into fields and present the case for better tillage practices as well as the issue of Soil Health.  Stay tuned for events that we are going to be part of here on Precision Tillage.com.

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.


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.

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.