News & Articles

1st Report from Orthman Cooperative Ohio State University Strip-Till Research

First year of a Long Term Research Program with The Ohio State University
field work done by Trey Colley

Mike Petersen here, we at Orthman have joined hands and feet as well as a 1tRIPr strip-tillage implement to the Agricultural-Bioengineering Department at Ohio State University to investigate how strip-tillage can be effective in the corn-soybean rotation of the Eastern Corn Belt region.  Specifically Ohio, Eastern Indiana are the states being considered. The program is to gain solid data on the intensity (low to high) of soil compaction in No-Till situations as well as Strip-Tillage, these are two tillage systems that are being promoted for conservation, fuel reduction, improvements in Soil Health, economics, reducing labor, improvements in placement of nutrients and crop health.  Dr. John Fulton and his very capable research assistant Trey Colley III have released some good data through the publication “2017 eFields Report” that I want to share as we await on the 2018 results which I will be reporting as soon as we have it in our hands.

Within this tillage study at the Western Ag Research Station near South Charleston, Ohio; the field scientists strip tilled, gaged all against Direct Seeding (No-Till) with varying downforce at planting time.  Soybeans, a Pioneer variety was planted at 130K seeds per acre.  The planter used was a CNH 2150 16 row planter with Precision ‘DeltaForce’ downforce controls.  The measurements were taken early to see what would happen with emergence and then to yield.  Also the scientists studied running the shank strip-till tool at 4 inches and then at 8-9 inches to determine if yield would be impacted.  August and September 2017 remained drier than seasonal norms which influenced yield retreats.

Fig. 1   Depiction of the 2017 study with Soybeans to determine the effects of No-Till versus Strip-Tilled to 8 inches with fertility/nutrients surface applied in the Direct Seeding (shown on the left) and positive placement below the seed with the 1tRIPr tool (shown on the right).  Nutrient source (dry fertilizer) was broadcast in the No-Till and precision placed at 4.5 inches behind the 1tRIPr shank.  You are seeing rootzone as the seed would be placed.

Fig. 2  Depiction of the Strip-Tilled zone after the planter pass at the heaviest downforce applied versus the 100lbs of force.  The soil compression was minimal to the rootzone.  Image to your left.

 

 

 

 

 

The soils in this field of the study are Kokomo silty clay and Strawn-Crosby complex, about a 40-60% proportion of the field.  Mr. Colley was then tasked to look at what the differences may be with emergence in where No-Till as the control is compared to Strip-Till with the same varying downforce applied.  The following chart describes the results for emergence and then yield.

Table 1.  Data depicts that at the higher amount of downforce in these silty clay soils the emergence was down from the 88% with No-Till but then at harvest the yields were same.

Treatments Tillage System Applied Downforce (lbs) Emergence (%) Yield (bu/ac) 
Control No-Till 100 87.9 61
Optimal Strip-Till 100 82.1 59
Heavy Strip-Till 195 79.6 61
Light Strip-Till 50 76.9 61
   Note:  soil texture of topsoil is silty clay
planted on June 1st 2017

Remarks from Orthman:  As we see this after the facts are in, the No-Till system and the Strip-Till system are very similar in results.  The seed-to-soil contact was slightly different in the very beginning yet it is our observation that the rootzone allowed the root system to expand and obtain nutrients and water equal to if not slightly better during the dry period that western Ohio experienced from July 16 to October 1st.   During that 45 day period 3.05 inches fell in several small showers of 0.1 to 0.3”  with dry warm days in the low 80’s.

Drawing some Conclusions:

  • No statistically significant yield benefits to utilizing different downforce control systems on the planter, however the OSU scientists felt there was emergence differences.
  • The highest downforce level achieved di not over compact the soil
  • Optimal (100psi) downforce provided the best emergence of the strip-till treatment with equal yield as the No-Till
  • Strip-Till very effectively reduced the compaction in the soil which from the field observations and early plant stage root digs showed improved root proliferation of the soybean plants.

 

We will be offering further results from this study in a follow up report from Mr. Colley’s research efforts.  Do stay tuned!

Texas Agri-Life Offers a Look at Cover Crops

From Texas Agri-Life Announced in November 2018—Some ideas about Cover Crops

An overwhelming amount of news and buzz across the country has to do with Cover Crops and what they can do for Soil Health.  I get it where the moisture is adequate to bountiful.  Consider those folks in the more arid zones; regions of the country with less than 18 inches of moisture falls throughout the year and maybe only 7 of those during the actual growing season – they face a different dilemma.

The good folks in Kansas, Oklahoma, and now Texas where in the past years have grown >5M acres of cotton, are expressing an urge of caution and cognitive thinking about Cover Crops being the answer to the plight of farmers in regards to Soil Health.

May I point you to a recent article well expressed from Texas.  Published in Southwest Farm Press, Shelley Huguley offers some information that has points to consider.
Just press control-click on the link below…

https://www.southwestfarmpress.com/cover-crops/cover-cropping-may-not-be-everyone

Why do we see Phosphorus a limited nutrient?

by:  Michael Petersen, Orthman Agronomist

 

We are well aware for the most of us in the Farming world that phosphorus (P) is a limiting nutrient for top yields, stalk health, reproductive health right around flowering, early vigorous growth in corn especially and in western United States calcareous soils gets tied up.

On this site I will be looking into articulating what those limitations are.  Sure we see Universities talk at great lengths about N and some about P and its importance – but with the phosphorus mines across this nation being mined heavily, rapidly diminishing rock phosphate sources hold concerns about what the future brings.

Microbiologically the number of species that work directly on organic sources and the P fertilizers we apply are not that high in number.  They are predominantly aerobic (requiring oxygen to respire/live) creatures. Penicillium, Psuedomonas, and  I want to focus on Bacillus subtilis, member of the Firmicutes phylum.  This strain of bacteria are one of the most common that work on phosphate we fertilize with.

Bacillus subtilis is known to have a symbiotic relationship with the Azotobacter (a nitrogen-fixer affiliated bacteria) only six species of this cyst forming aerobic bacteria exist. These two work together on insoluble phosphorus within soil normally that is material like rock phosphate in dry fertilizers. The phosphorus gets trapped with the clay particles and begins to freeze ionic speaking, because the phosphate ion tightly bonds to the positive cations (calcium, iron, magnesium, silicon, and aluminum) found in the soil. B. subtilis coordinates with Azotobacter vinelandia by helping to release the phosphate bonds and release the phosphate (PO4) throughout the upper 6 to 10 inches of the soil profile. Without the addition of B. subtilis, the phosphorus can’t do its job effectively and further hinders agriculture. The phosphorus can’t move around to the plants and help maintain prosperous growth. Soil microbiologists consider B. subtilis and arbuscular mycorrhizae are  both a good alternative to insoluble phosphate fertilizers.

Scientists out of the microbiology world have discovered that B. subtilis and Azotobacter can be an aid to seed germination which is a big deal in certain seed crops like sorghum, canola, and small seeded vegetables. B. subtilis is able to take up DNA from its environment and creat antibiotics for itself and the host plant root it lives on to protect it from pathogens.  Quite the organism to aid a plant due to the net it makes to help its host.  See the figure below – electron micrograph image of the Bacillus subtillis colony and the net it produces around the colony. The strands you see are actually millions of these microbes swarming and releasing a slime layer which is what you see to the outside of the image, making the colony mobile to move about on root surfaces or on the soil liquid interface.  Probably more than you wanted to know, but think about the lack of mobility of P in the soil; here the microbes distribute what they use and secrete away.

B_subtilis_colony
Color electron micrograph of a colony of Bacillus subtilis on a media plate

Because B. subtilis is mobile with flagella (short string-like tails act as whips to scuttle the bacteria cells around on the root surface and in the soil solution) this bacteria can redistribute PO4 in the upper portions of the soil profile (0-9 inches) and feed roots in that section.

Another biological phenomena in the soil surface horizons is the arbuscular mycorrhizae that can infect roots to live inside the cortex of the roots symbiotically and bring N, P, S and Zn back to its host.  These ultra thin strands or hyphae that extend out of the infected root cells grows outward to access soil organics, humic acids, peptides, polysaccharides (complex sugars), a host of cellulosic materials – all to feed its host which requires simple sugars from the plant.  The plant gets the much better side of this relationship.

Microbes are extremely important to the breakdown of P in soils, can dislodge the tightly bound PO4 ions and make them able to interact with the roots.  Cyanobacteria, specific species of Glomus sp. mycorrhizae are included in the list of phosphorus solubilizing microbes which has Aspergillus sp., Penicillium sp., Trichoderma sp., and Actinomycetes a very robust group of bacteria in cropland soils.  Scientists have determined that the Actinomycetes are able to withstand dramatic temperature fluctuations from hot to cold and remain viable and energetic to solubilize phosphorus in the organic fraction and added phosphate fertilizers.  For those who are small grain farmers in with their row crops; the dryland farmers who have wheat and corn in rotation – you have an added advantage that wheat residues and old wheat roots are occupied by several genus of bacteria that remain to be phosphate solubilizers for the next crop.  For those of you that consider cover crops or companion crops, wheat has this relationship to continue a so-called home for these bacteria.

All great bits of information to provide you with tools and knowledge that the soils can be managed to aid with releasing P naturally and not use so much added phosphate.

 

Sources for this post:
Schaechter, Ingraham, and Neidhardt in Microbe. ASM Press 2006
Todar, K. “Todars OnLine Textbook of Bacteriology
Morikawa, M. Journal of Bioscience and Bioengineering, 2006 Vol 101, #1, 1-8
Sharma et.al., Phosphate solubilizing microbes sustainable approach for managing phosphorus deficiency in agricultural soils. Springer Plus 2013, 2:587

 

Moisture Collection vs Moisture Lost

by Mike Petersen, Lead Agronomist

Fall Strip-Tilled into Barley Stubble

Storms are advancing from the Southwest into the Central Corn Belt with blizzard-like conditions at times but are we getting enough moisture to provide replenishment? Further west in Western NE, KS, SD and into Colorado and Wyoming, we have much less snowfall – oh my pitifully dry.
One of the wonderful details about maintaining all last year’s stalks, leaves, shucks in the field is trapping all these snowfall events. Over across the road where the neighbor fall tilled or used his “vertical” tillage or disk tool the residue was sized, chopped and free to blow from here to the Gulf. Also simply put, the taller stalks left in corn to cause movement of lateral snow to drop and stay on the ground compared to the flattened soil surfaces. Many times snow blowing around can accumulate in the standing stalks and give you another 3 to 8 inches of snow, which means harvesting water.
Even if a grower strip-tills in the fall the surface profile of the soil/field is left very rough and allows for catchment areas to have snow stop and store-up in the field. Why all this? Every inch of these snows is priceless. We know that very few of us want to plant into dry soils, irrigate up if irrigation is possible, or just hope for the next rain to be plentiful to start the planted crop.
For the conventional tillage farmer each spring tillage operation has the potential for loss of moisture, and that could be up to 0.75 inch per tillage operation. As dry as it has been that is 8-10 inches of snowfall loss in one pass. Wow, consider that and we have had so little snow since December 1, 2012, I worry about the condition of the soil profile moisture even for the Strip-Tillers. So what growers may want to consider in the Western Corn Belt is waiting until the very last week to strip-till and then follow close behind with the planter. The Orthman 1tRIPr was designed way back in the late, late ‘90’s to be a connected set up of strip-till and planter attached. This year, 2013 there is a great deal of merit to give that a long look.

2012 – 1st Season of Strip-Till Results in South Africa

Strip tillage results with fertilizer placement in South Africa

This is the report from South Africa with two short but direct accounts of growers using strip-till to grow corn. Click HERE to download the strip till row crop report from agronomist Mike Petersen.

2012 Fall Report – Carbon Boost-S Adds to Corn Yields

Putting Carbon Boost to the Test Pays Off

Late Fall 2012 Interview:

Lead Agronomist, Mike Petersen just wrapped up their third year of testing FBSciences’ Carbon Boost-S™ at the Orthman Mfg. Research Farm in Nebraska and the results are impressive. The 2012 results show up to a 25 bushel per acre yield increase, netting $157.40, when Carbon Boost was applied with pre-plant strip-till. (The net profit of $157.40 per acre is based on the 25-bushel-per acre yield response, $7-bushel corn and a single 16-ounce application of Carbon Boost at $1.10 per ounce for a total cost of $17.60 per acre.)

“While the 25-bushel-per-acre increase is not as dramatic as the response of up to 53.7 bushels per acre in 2011, it was still significant,” says Mike Petersen, lead agronomist, Orthman Mfg., which is based in Lexington, Neb. “But the 2012 results with Carbon Boost in our pre-plant strip-tillage stands out because of the tough growing conditions.

“The pollination period was so dry, hot and critical in 2012,” Petersen says. “We had several days of 108° F at the research farm in western Nebraska. Around 94° F, corn goes into ‘maintain-life’ mode and slows down to a near standstill. During pollination, the corn in our area struggled significantly.”

“But the corn with Carbon Boost was healthier during the summer heat and drought,” Petersen says. “I believe the yield advantage comes from the Carbon Boost. It strengthens root production and enhances uptake of nutrients and water. All of these benefits lead to a corn plant that’s more able to withstand stresses.”

The 2012 growing season marked the third consecutive year Othman tested Carbon Boost at its research farm.

In 2011, the increase of 53.7 bushels with one particular corn hybrid from using Carbon Boost generated almost $322.2 of gross revenue, based on $6 corn. And in 2010, corn yields increased 26 and 30 bushels per acre, when Carbon Boost was applied pre-plant, Petersen says. “In 2010 we applied 8 ounces per acre, pre-plant when we strip-tilled, and then we applied 6 ounces per acre, in-furrow, with the planter and corn yields rose by 15 and 24 bushels per acre.” Three consecutive years of yield increases during varying weather conditions definitely proves that Carbon Boost works well on high pH soils in the western Corn Belt, Petersen says. Petersen went on to say; “ Integrating Carbon Boost with the pre-plant, liquid fertilizer program was easy. We mixed it in with the liquid fertilizer as we banded with our Orthman 1tRIPr strip-till machine directly under the row.”

In the pre-plant strip-tillage, 40% of the liquid fertilizer was banded at 4 inches and 60% was banded 9 inches down in the tilled strip. Dual placement is a popular choice with strip-tillers using Orthman’s 1tRIPr, Petersen says.

“Fully 75% of the farmers strip-tilling with our 1tRIPr in the western Corn Belt dual-place fertilizer,” he says. “Approximately 45%-50% of the 1tRIPrs strip-tilling in the central and eastern Corn Belt use dual placement.”

Dual placement of fertilizer at 4 and 9 inches potentially has great provision to supply corn the energy it needs at two critical periods, Petersen says.

The fertilizer at 4 inches helps corn in the first 15 days, while the corn accesses the fertilizer placed at 9 inches from 16-60 days after emergence, he says. During the latter part of the 16-60 day period, the corn determines yield by setting the numbers of rows around on the cob — the girth — and the number of kernels running along the length of the ear.

Here at Orthman Research Farm, we will continue to use Carbon Boost in 2013. In addition to the pre-plant application with strip-tillage, Mike and Mark Griffith, farm manager will carry out foliar applications with a high-clearance sprayer in mid-to-late June in time for another critical growth period for corn when the row length is determined. It is their intention to continue demonstrating that Orthman sees value in putting together a smarter agronomic system in raising the corn potential where Strip-Till is the foundation.

Evaluating the Agronomic Building Blocks of the 2012 Corn Crop

How many of you as you have sat in the combine driver’s seat controlling the speed and flow of the corn you are harvesting have thought about the specific segments that held yield at bay for you this year? Yes for sure we had a nasty, hot and intensely dry summer all across the Corn Belt from Indiana to the Front Range of the Rockies. Just saying that, climate conditions limited nearly everyone’s yield potentials to tweak that 250 bu/acre+. The heat was overwhelming, the lack of rain just about cooked many, many corn fields and enduring dry about broke our backs.
We, the Orthman Farms farm manager and I were weighing the weed control efforts and fertilization program when having a break as we loaded a semi-trailer couple of days ago and were asking what would have been the step in our management plan that could have helped out our corn yields. We are still very pleased with 196 – 230 bu/acre irrigated corn yields don’t get me wrong – but as we looked at the ears of corn rolling into the combine they are filled out to the very end, 16 to 18 rows and 33-37 kernels in length at a final stand of 29900 – 30950 plants per acre. Our corn is weighing in at 59 and 60lbs per bushel. We are scratching our heads with that as the dominance of the ears, but we see plants that are in the mix at 14 – 16 rows and 25 -28 kernels in length. Same hybrid and variety and the stand came up even with our strip-till methods of seedbed preparation and fertilization, and this variation just sort of boggles our minds. Our irrigation was taking care of the needs even at 108°F., so what gave us such wide variation was our question.
As some of you know at the Orthman Research Farm this year we carried out a late foliar application of slow release N and a dose of micronutrients and humic acid to see what the effects would be. Last year we did much the same when the anthers just started turning brown after pollination and the 18 varieties we carried this out on, showed a boost in yield from 2 to 11 bu/acre compared to where we did not apply. This year we believe it is much the same but waiting on the actual numbers? We also applied FBSciences Carbon Boost-S® product and saw a stimulated response of about 16 bu/acre over the control in our 8.0-8.2 pH soils. We did not apply the Carbon Boost over all our acres which could well be a big part in tapping the 220+ yield rung on the ladder. You can see there has to be a set of keys that when linked together we should peak yields and feel confident in maintaining those yields for years to come. But I know that above 100°F. conditions of stress in rain-fed and irrigated corn were incredible. We had a thick layer of remaining corn residue between the rows to help insulate from the heat that hammered us in June and decrease evaporation losses. We were judicious to spray with solid choices for weed control, weeds were well controlled even those late season nuisances like Black Nightshade and grasses.
Similar to the same head scratching you have been going through? We planted hybrids we felt were going to withstand heat of July and August, but from June 3rd to September 1st – yikes!! We even dug root pits and determined our corn rooted down to depths of 6.5 to 7 feet and filled the upper 36 inches of the soil profile. The “Heat Units” were 350 days above numerous years prior and should have had some marvelous yields. We did not scrimp much on N-P-K-Zn and S that’s for sure. Before the head scratching goes too deep and draws blood, the climatic conditions of low humidity levels, nights that rarely cooled down into the 60’s, hot winds and steady temperatures above 95°F. all had to have caused more internal stress on corn from tapping 250+ than we have considered in the last 6 years. Conditions were perplexing to say the least. As an agronomist I do believe we can place numerous management practices in play to help alleviate the stresses of heat and drought, but for 60+ days – wow we need help from the skies.
We invite any of you to wade into this discussion and interact as to what steps you thought was helpful to you maintaining a sustained high yield in corn or soybeans this year.

Deep fertilizer placement: Laurie & Jim Black Farms, Queensland Australia

Newspaper story

Story by Clarisa Collis

Deep fertiliser placement tackles subsoil constraints

Subsoil phosphorous deficiencies identified in long-term research across the northern grain-growing region have spurred a new approach in fertiliser application for the Black family at Brookstead in south-east Queensland.

The Blacks – brothers Laurie and Jim, along with Jim’s son Peter – have invested in an Orthman 1tRIPr strip tillage machine designed to cultivate the seedbed and place fertiliser down to a depth of 20 centimetres in the soil.

The aim is to address phosphorous deficiency in the the subsoil, as opposed to the topsoil, which research has revealed is limiting yields by between 10 and 20 percent on their 1618-hectare cotton and grain property.

GRDC funded research, ongoing since 2006, has found that the constraint is reducing yields by up to 20 percent on 25 farms, from Gunnedah, New South Wales, to Capella, Queensland, including the Blacks’ farm.

Leader of the collaborative search from the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation Dr Mike Bell says deep fertilizer applications involving strategic tillage are the key to eliminating the phosphorous deficiency as a production restraint.

This is because phosphorus is an immobile nutrient that tends to remain in the top 10cm of the soil profile where it is placed using conventional practices for applying fertilisers. This contrasts with mobile nutrients, such as nitrogen and sulfur, that move with moisture into the deeper soil layers where plant roots are the most active in removing nutrients.

Dr Bell says oats sim is another immobile nutrient likely to result in cropping losses in the future, particularly since the Blacks introduced cotton to their cropping program last year.

“Cotton has a higher Potassium requirement than grain crops, so it’s like a canary in a coal mine that warns when reserves of the nutrient are close to running out.”

Peter Black says the potassium deficiency has already shown itself in the cotton crop they harvested in April. The new machine is expected to help redress the issue and avoid further productivity losses.

Although the Orthman 1tRIPr is set to “compromise” their zero-till practices, Peter says the minimal soil disturbance in its wake is expected to improve water infiltration and reduce compaction in the seedbed.

He says other benefits of the investment include the residual effects of deep-banding fertilizer over several years and the ability to apply a mix of nutrients deep and shallow in a single pass.
– By Clarissa Collis

Strip tillage helps add a few precious days in drought and other poor conditions

Courtesy Brownfield Ag News:

Listen to Adam here. (2:47 mp3)

Orthman strip tillage 1tripr

“At the Orthman display at the Farm Progress Show, we talked to market development representative Adam Souder about the Orthman 1tRIPr (one-tripper) strip-till machine.

According to Souder, the 1tRIPr preplant tillage tool combines proven strip-till soil management, precision nutrient placement, and seedbed preparation in a single field pass to provide unprecedented field efficiency.

Souder says the 1tRIPr name is derived from combining multiple operations to meet preplant objectives while conserving moisture, soil, time, and money in one trip.”

Story by Ken Anderson

Assessing N levels in your soil

Interesting reading from the University of Minnesota by Daniel Kaiser and John Lamb! They discussed N levels back in March (click to read newsletter) and then revisited N and it’s relationship with rain last week (click to read).

Orthman Research Farm test plot near Lexington, Nebraska