Strip-till Soybeans part 1

Soybeans receive benefits from strip-till practices

Soybeans receive benefits from strip-till practices (click to enlarge)

As commodity prices sit now, I hear talk about growers considering adding more soybean acres for 2015. And, with that, comes the question of whether strip-tillage benefits soybeans as well as corn. The simple answer, ABSOLUTELY! I’ll explain some of the details in the next few blog entries. First of all, the very basics. Strip-tilling beans is very common, as the beans receive the same benefits as corn from the process – ideal seedbed conditions, precision nutrient placement, and optimal rootzone conditions throughout the growing season. Western Iowa grower Tom Niewohner was interviewed by his local NRCS office, where he discusses strip-tilling soybeans to combat his biggest issues: drainage, compaction and springtime wind erosion- read the article here. In eastern Nebraska, interviewed grower Kevin Kucera about the benefits of placing dry fertilizer rather than broadcasting in their June 2014 edition: read the story here. Finally, from near the Michigan/Indiana lone – have a look at a strip-tilled soybean crop from our YouTube channel here.   Check back for more strip-till soybean info… until then… make a great week!

Getting started with precision Strip-Tillage

Much research exists showing the benefits of true, precision strip-tillage – including ideal seedbed conditions, precision nutrient placement, and optimal rootzone conditions. If you’re contemplating a test or even a switch to a strip-tillage system, have a look at some of these sources for info:


As always, we’d love to hear your specific questions too! Email randy.haarberg at orthman dot com.

Analyzing soil structure after strip-tilling

As fall tillage gets geared up, we want your pictures! I was asked what a grower should look for, so developed this list:

  • Run your 1tRIPr at the same field speed that you will be using for finishing the field.
  • Take a tile shovel or something similar, push straight down and pull out soil so you have a side view. Do this at 5 or 6 widths so you have cleaned a zone out wider than you have shattered with the 1tRIPr shank.
  • Clean out the soil by hand so you have a good side view, and smooth any shovel marks
  • Make sure you have gone deep enough to get to the bottom of your shank zone.

Some things to evaluate from the pit:

  • Look for a nice upside-down umbrella shape that is shattered
  • This shattered area should not have smeared sidewalls. Many other points leave a V shape with hard sidewalls that crop roots will not grow through; the 1tRIPr shank and point are made to leave a U shape without hard sidewalls.
  • You should be able to see just by looking that you have increased pore size. This is a key element for increasing infiltration rates.
  • You want to see increased pore size, but NOT any soil voids. Many times, minor adjustments with the wavy coulters will correct soil voids. Large soil voids can cause soil to dry out or to wash away, depending on weather conditions. I have seen berms that have looked good from above ground but below have large enough voids I can put my arm in!
  • Check how wide your wavy coulters are in comparison to root shatter zone. If the wavy coulters are wider than the shatter zone, you reduce the quality of job they will do for you.

Below is a photo taken by Horizon Equipment in western Iowa in the spring of 2014. In the photo you can see shatter zone, soil structure change and proper 1tRIPr use. Click the image to enlarge.

Soil pores

I would like to challenge others to dig and take photos of your mini soil pits! Farm name is optional but please include time of year, general location, type of fertilizer used, crop that you are going to plant, and other information that might be important and email to randyhaarberg at orthman dot com. Thanks again to Horizon Equipment for the photo above!

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.

More than strip tillage – PRECISION tillage

Fall strip till with Orthman 1tRIPr

Courtesy C&B Operations / Rock County Implement

With many 1tRIPr precision strip till machines starting to run for fall application, it is time to make sure you are getting the most out of your farming operation.

Here at Orthman, we stress 3 benefits that your strip-till pass need to provide:

  1. Ideal Seedbed Preparation
  2. Precision Nutrient Placement
  3. Optimal Root-zone Conditioning

Check back here over the next few days as I detail each of these strip-till principles.

In the mean time – send us your strip till photos and questions! I’d be happy to answer any questions you have about specific details or strip till systems in general… email randyhaarberg at

Emergence data – strip till vs no till


From our friends at Horizon Equipment in Western Iowa… an update on their strip till vs no till test plots.



No till - Strip till

No till sprout (left), Strip till sprout (right)

Planted on May 6, Tom and his crew saw an obvious ‘head start’ from the strip till sprout.





And, on May 22, more signs of Advantage: Strip Till.compaction

Dense soil literally prevents the plant from rooting and limits nutrient uptake. You can easily see the difference – the No-Till plot is hard and slows down roots. The Strip-Till plot offers ideal seedbed conditions.

No-tillage Strip-tillage trial

No-till (left) and Strip-till (right) plants, 22 days after planting

And, as you can see, the strip till plant has better development in root structure and plant mass. We’ll continue to update you as the season goes on. Thanks again, Tom!

Many 1tRIPr machines are starting to run

Strip till and planter in one passWith many 1tRIPr’s starting to run this spring there are agronomic goals to keep in mind. At Orthman we have 3 Principles of Strip Till that we feel need to be addressed on every acre of strip tillage:

  1. Ideal Seedbed Preparation
  2. Precision Nutrient Management
  3. Optimal Root Zone Conditioning

As an agronomist, I target the 1tRIPr to fulfill all 3 of the above mentioned principles. To do any of these and not accomplish ALL of them can cost you yield. I challenge each farmer that strip tills to stop and think how he can improve what he is doing. There is a very good chance that your bottom line will increase.

1) Ideal Seedbed Preparation: When the strip till unit leaves the field the planter must be able to run very smoothly on the berm that you have built. I feel this berm must be higher than the soil out of the berm but not more than 1” higher. Please remember that seed to soil contact, even spacing and seed depth are critical. Many studies suggest that a plant that emerges 36 hours later than other plants should be considered a weed! And, one study even cuts that down to 12 hours delayed emergence.

Early plant health and crop vigor can improve yield potential. One large reason to help early vigor is the increased temperature of the soil in the strip till berm. Another factor when doing a correct job creating a berm is you can increase water infiltration rate by changing soil pore sizes.

2) Precision Nutrient Placement: There are farmers that strip till but don’t apply fertilizers. In my 27 years of agronomy work, I have seen that failure reduce yield potential and efficiencies. You have a prime opportunity to place nutrients in a proper position! Not only do not only have the opportunity to choose dry fertilizer, liquid fertilizer, or anhydrous, you can choose proper depth, and in many situations can do MULTIPLE depths at one time. At Orthman we do have data that show you may get close to a 30 bushel improvement on corn by proper nutrient placement.

3) Optimal Root Zone Conditioning: Root Zone Conditioning is overlooked by many producers; make sure to take time to dig in the soil to see what your shank is doing. Behind many operations it has been noted that you are not leaving the soil in proper shape for maximum root growth. The first common mistake is we leave hard layers (commonly called smears) that roots can’t penetrate. By doing this you reduce your root growth that affects plant health and yield. We need to make sure we have a shank that shatters soil and compaction zones.

Soil voids are also something we want to stay away from. If we have any voids it will affect the planter running smooth, seed depth and placement. It also allows your berm to dry out and you will not maximize existing moisture.

Randy Haarberg

Precision Tillage System Agronomist