Reaping the Rewards from a Year of Hard Work and Planning for Success Next Year

by Kyle Frazier – Orthman Regional Product Specialist

With the 2015 harvest season upon us and with every producer eagerly watching the yield monitor to see what this year has produced, there is one common question that is being asked by almost everyone in the Eastern Corn Belt and that is “how severe is the water damage in the fields from a wet growing season”? Each and every producer I have spoken with talks about how well the yields are on high ground and how the yield falls off in the lower parts of the same field. The abundance of rainfall this year caused some very saturated field conditions throughout most of the growing season. With water infiltration being a problem this year, even though the focus may be on getting the crop out of the field, fall is the perfect time to start preparing for a successful 2016 growing season and improving water infiltration rates with your fall tillage program by using the proven technology of the Orthman 1tRIPr strip till system.

With Orthman’s three principles of successful strip till being optimal root zone conditioning, precision fertilizer placement, and ideal seedbed preparation, you are able to make one pass across the field after the combine and have it planter ready before spring. You may be wondering how this helps with the water infiltration issues that so many experienced this year. When you look at each principle individually, you can start to understand the benefits in more detail. With one of the principles being optimal root zone conditioning and a major factor limiting water infiltration rates being pore space and destruction of soil structure, less tillage passes across the field will allow for better soil structure and more pore space in the soil.

Side-by-side view of increased water infiltration with strip till; click to view larger.

Side-by-side view of increased water infiltration with strip till; click to view larger.

This will allow for higher water infiltration rates. When compared to a conventional tillage system that includes multiple passes across the field for tillage and seedbed preparation, where every pass is breaking apart the soil particles into smaller pieces and destroying the structure of the soil, the single pass of the 1tRIPr allows for more pore space and larger soil particles that improve water infiltration while still making an ideal seedbed.

A water infiltration rate measurement taken during the 2014 growing season in Atlantic, IA showed water will infiltrate the soil over two and a half times faster in a 1tRIPr system (5.51 inches/hour) verses a no-till system (2.08 inches/hour). A soil bulk density measurement taken at the same location shows a bulk density for the 1tRIPr system of 0.942 g/cm3 vs. no-till system of 1.416 g/cm3. Less bulk density represents less compaction in the soil. Decreased compaction and increased soil porosity allows for robust root growth and increased opportunities for water and nutrient uptake by the plant.

Side-by-side view of increased soil porosity; click to view larger.

Side-by-side view of increased soil porosity; click to view larger.

Soil porosity will directly affect soil aeration and water holding capacity, which in-turn affects root development and nutrient availability in the soil and all these factors will affect the end result of Yield.

So as you watch the rewards from your hard work being brought in from the fields this fall think about what you can do to raise the bar and prepare to raise a superior crop in 2016. The Orthman 1tRIPr strip till system is proven reliable with its three principle of successful strip till. Become more efficient and reap a better return on investment next year by using the 1tRIPr system, which has more acres under it around the world than any other system.

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.

University of Illinois: Final Report

As prepared by Dr. Laura Gentry and Dr. Fred Below, and summarized by Mike Petersen – an executive report from the University of Illinois for crop year 2013 (CY13).


Stover accumulation has been shown to reduce corn grain yields in continuous corn production systems leading to suggestions that high corn prices, which result in more continuous corn production, will also could result in widespread implementation of stover removal practices. However, effects of stover removal on soil fertility requirements and soil organic matter levels is an on-going concern and must be considered when growers decide to remove stover from continuous corn fields. In this project, we (Fred Below, Laura Gentry and associates) assessed the effectiveness of stover removal for increasing corn yields in high-yielding and conventional environments as well as nutrient management consequences of stover removal. High yielding environments consisted of higher plant populations, increased nutrient fertilizer application, insect protection traits, and application of fungicides. Conventional environments consisted of more common planting populations, less intense fertilizer applications, no insect protection traits (a granular soil insecticide was applied at planting in both environments), and no fungicide application. Additionally, three residue management treatments (crop rotation, partial stover removal, and tillage) were applied at two levels (9th-year continuous corn vs. long-term corn-soybean rotation, stover retained vs. 50% stover removed, and conventional tillage vs. strip tillage) to assess their individual and combined effects on the input treatments (plant population, nutrients, traits, and fungicide) and corn yields. In this summary we are reporting the results from 2013. Click table to view larger:

2013 corn yield results

Yellow: Corn/Soybean rotation with all practices employed
Orange: Same, without P-K-S fertility added
Blue: Better hybrid taken out, standard hybrid selected


Strip tillage is a relatively new reduced tillage system in the Central Corn Belt that protects soil from erosion, retains plant-available water, maintains soil structure and retains soil organic matter, and allows banding of fertilizers for more efficient plant uptake.  Strip tillage can substantially reduce soil compaction associated with multiple seedbed field operations; this also represents cost savings as a result of eliminating fuel use, labor, and equipment wear.  These three agricultural management practices – crop rotation, residue management, and reduced tillage – were tested for their individual and cumulative effects on agricultural sustainability parameters and corn yields in combination with the omission treatment design previously employed to investigate high yield management factors for corn production.

(Above Executive Summary provided by Laura Gentry, PhD.)


Comments/Observations by Orthman Soil Science Agronomist, Michael Petersen:

As we observe and evaluate this data set that Gentry and Below studied several key points that come up before growers minds as they evaluate the validity of Strip-Tillage, rotational changes, hybrids, fertility programs even in a year like 2013 when the spring was wet and planting was delayed.  Please note in the supplied table the colored cells; yellow highlighted cells depict in the Corn-Soybean rotation portion of the Gentry-Below studies in the High Tech plots in which all practices are employed, incl: P-K-S etc fertilizer added precisely, high-sustainable N rates employed, best hybrids (with insect, herbicide resistant, day length, etc), higher seeding populations, and fungicides applied at premium time.  In orange cells the additional P-K-S etc fertility is subtracted.  In the blue cells the better hybrid selection is taken out and standard hybrid selected.  Much the same as what we have observed at the Orthman Research Farm near Lexington, Nebraska – precision tillage offers a slightly better yield advantage, which along with savings in fuel, time, and other costs – IMPROVES PROFIT MARGINS.

Lastly, in the last line of the table, precision tillage results in the averages Continuous Corn/Retained with Strip-Tillage compared to Conventional Tillage (second left column) an advantage leans to Strip-Till.  We are pleased that Dr. Gentry supplied us these data and will continue the studies in 2014 with the use of Strip-Tillage using the Orthman 1tRIPr and dry fertilizer application system by Valmar.

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

From South Africa – Orthman XDR combines 1tRIPr strip tillage with John Deere planter

Courtesy ProAgri magazine in South Africa, here’s a story about the introduction of the Orthman XDR, a 1tRIPr strip-till machine and John Deere planter – combined into one pass across the field!

The story is in the Afrikaans language – but you can download an English version of the John Deere Orthman XDR story here. Special thanks go out to our friends at GWK and John Deere for hosting a great field day!

Winter time is the time for your planter tune-up!

Planting via the Precision Tillage System method at the Orthman Manufacturing Research Proving Grounds.

Here at Orthman Manufacturing, we know this time of the year is a great time to check out the planter and its functionality to get the seeds in the ground like you want come April. Read the one page article that has some thoughtful words on being a precision farmer.  Click on the following link (Orthman Planter) to read what Randy Haarberg says; Orthman_Planter article2014.

With Better Precise Fertility Placement in Strip-till, Can we enhance Plant health and avoid Poor Stalk Conditions?

Our Lead Agronomist, Mike Petersen has been up to or should we say getting down to it, finding more out about the issue of potassium (K) having a role in the issue across parts of the Corn belt of corn going down bad. His talks with other wise Agro’s across the U.S., delving into research, reading texts has come to him writing a two page article. Look it over. Click on the hyperlink (text in orange color) Better precise K and S fertility_StripTill and enjoy!

Strip-Till and No-Till Root Systems are not the same! See what Orthman Mfg agronomy team observed.

In the News and Articles section you can read some of the latest news of a study we completed at the Orthman Research Farm this summer (2013).  Click on the following title – Orthman NTvsST root article2013  We wanted to offer a look at what did happen below ground this year and gain an appreciation for a more full rooting system in what we promote here at Orthman Manufacturing – that being “Gain an optimal root system with a 1tRIPr and sound hybrid selections”.

Spring time pore studies on Orthman Research Farm – Results!

Mike Petersen compares soil pores in Strip-Till after four years of continuous corn as well as 4 years of continuous corn in No-Till.

Coming back to the Benefits of Strip-Till and Pores in the Near Surface
Sept. 17, 2013    By: Mike Petersen, Lead Agronomist-Orthman Manufacturing

Early in the growing season we presented a blog regarding that pores were being looked at closely in the Strip-Tilled (ST) ground and No-Tilled (NT) ground at the Orthman Research Farm.  We have looked at this and 101 other details throughout the season and feel it is the right time to offer you some thoughts and conclusions.  My intern and I dug more soil pits than he cares to remember as he is deep into his college studies now, some of them when the temps were touching 100°F by 2:00 in the afternoon.

Developing the 10cm x 10cm block

During my stint of 34 years with USDA as a soil scientist we described pores, pore numbers, size, shape and continuity as we conducted soil surveys.  Pore research is intricate work and quite informative once the process and methodology is explained.  Let me be brief; pores are pretty much categorized by size – less than 1mm in diameter, 1 to 2 mm, 2 to 5mm and then greater than 5mm.  Get above that size and we are into void or holes.  Then we determine an actual count within a square decimeter (10cm x 10cm) and the pores shape.  The shape indicates whether they are old insect burrows, old root channels, solution channels, earthworm burrows and/or interstitial crevices.  All of these pores assist in the soil breathing and allowing water to move downward into the soil profile.  An observer may count several hundred pores of all sizes in native grassland soils or in soils that have suffered the fate of abundant tillage passes and heavy traffic to see less than one dozen in the square decimeter.  Essentially like concrete and impervious to water.

Our study at the Orthman Research Farm was fairly complete in that we looked at 27 in-field locations within the ST and 21 sites for the NT practice.  We made these observations after 4 years of continuous corn of NT and ST and moving the location of planting corn over 15 inches each year then digging out our blocks between the existing corn right after planting as corn was emerging.


Excavate a 30cm x 30cm block of soil from between the rows of emerging corn, shave off the upper two inches where all the residue was on top and the loose soil from winters freeze-thaw repeated and fluffed the soil surface.  Next we cut out with a sharp knife a 10cm x 10cm block that essentially allowed us to observe the 2 to 6 inch portion of the soil profile. Shaved the four surfaces flat when moist and with the point of the knife picked each face to be expressing a raw face.  Used the blades point to etch a quadrat on the face so we could count four smaller squares and begin counting the three sizes I mentioned above in the second paragraph (not the >5mm).

We would each count until our eyes crossed (well maybe not literally but we did run out of fingers and toes numerous times!) The observations are completed with a 10 magnification geologists hand lens and recorded.

Our results of the Pore Counts:
Table 1.  Data from the Strip-Tilled and No-Tilled sites at Orthman Farm, continuous corn from 2009-2014 and tillage practices remained in same rows all 4 years. Pores counted on 10cm x 10cm soil blocks from the 2 to 6 inch depth.

Location ST <1mm ST 1-2mm ST 2-5mm ST Total NT <1mm NT 1-2mm NT 2-5mm NT Total
Site 1 295 26 7 328 97 4 4 105
Site 2 218 20 9 328 82 8 3 93
Site 3 211 13 2 328 203 29 12 244
Site 4
Site 5 200 42 8 328 98 12 2 112
Site 6 188 59 14 328 74 6 11 91
Site 7 80 18 11 328 86 9 2 97
Site 8 96 25 5 328 142 8 7 157
Site 9 144 18 6 328 178 15 8 201
Site 10 113 12 4 328 147 11 3 161
Site 11 179 28 4 328 144 20 8 110
Site 12 149 22 7 328 81 21 8 90
Site 13 211 22 11 328 69 15 6 153
Site 14 242 32 20 328 135 15 3 131
Site 15 288 41 22 328 115 14 2 180
Site 16 326 39 30 328 155 17 8 204
Site 17 279 23 13 328 181 15 8 105
Site 18 176 18 13 328 99 4 4 107
Site 19 139 10 4 328 184 3 3 190
Site 20 135 21 14 328 89 9 2 100
Site 21 149 14 6 328 97 12 7 116
Site 22 106 12 9 328 100 12 5 117
Site 23 142 13 6 328
Site 24 137 14 8 328
Site 25 97 17 8 328
Site 26 113 12 7 328
Site 27 251 9 7 328
Mean 178.4 21.8 9.2 218 122 12.73 5.45 140.18
Median 154 18 8 98 12 6 124

Table 2. The range in pore counts for all sites at Orthman Research Farm

Pore Sizes ST-hi NT-hi ST-mean NT-mean ST-low NT-low
1mm 326 203 178.4 140.2 80 69
1-2mm 41 29 21.8 12.7 9 2
2-5mm 29 11 9.2 5.5 2 2

As you contemplate all the numbers there is definitely a trend that strip till has some higher counts in all three pore sizes, even as we look at the lowest counts on the right side of Table 2 for ST-low and NT-low. I will provide some clues and observations as to what I believe has occurred here over the four years of the side-by-side tillage comparisons.

Discussion and Conclusions:
As we made these observations we also excavated 30cm x 30cm blocks and pulled them apart and counted earthworms at the same time of the pore counts. Think about it, earthworms burrow and leave nice round tunnels – PORES. Who is helping out both tillage systems, certainly the “Tunnel Kings of the Earth”. Our worm counts ranged from 8 to 36 earthworms per square foot in mid-May.
Because we at the Orthman Farm alternate each year where we run the 1tRIPr tool between the previous year’s corn row we allow the old corn crown to remain and disintegrate slowly where worms are very active and those root channels/holes are routes and places for earthworms to live, breed and eat. Our tillage from what we have seen encourages worms to move in and out of the till zone (soil density is generally less than where it is easier to burrow and leave tunnels and burrows. I have been observing this now for 32 years. During this four year side-by-side study and digging during the growing season I have seen and pointed out to whoever is with me that in the NT surface compaction becomes problematic with row crop systems with tractor, combine and grain cart traffic. This has broken down soil pores in this 2 to 6 inch zone where we carry out the soil pore counts. With strip-till we can alleviate this in the spring and see more pores in the spring months.

Figure 1: Pore counts in comparing high counts and mean values between Strip-Till (ST) and No-Till(NT), 2013

In this graphic we compare the ST high counts of pores to the NT high numbers along with what the mean values of the counts. In the green text box you can read that the Strip-Till numbers are slightly fewer than the highest counts made in the No-Till

Figure 2: Total pore counts, mean values compared as Strip-Till and No-Till and the lowest number of pores for each tillage type

In the above chart (Fig 2) I offer a different look at the mean pore count numbers and the lowest numbers of pores counted to demonstrate the differences.
As I consider all what is here and the 1300+ root pits I have engaged into and then thousands of holes when I was involved in the National Soil Survey Program in 4 different states as a soil scientist, it is my opinion we see consistently more of all three major pore sizes in a Strip-Tillage System. Will it always be 25 to 40% more in numbers? No. If any conservation tillage farmer really makes a serious program to control all season traffic in and out and across of their fields the pore counts will be pretty close to the same. At the Orthman Farm we carry out harvest operations with grain carts moving all about to load and unload the combine to keep the harvest smooth and quick, similar to large corn growers in the Great Plains. We are confident that our tillage efforts will take care of 98% of all issues.
So as I conclude that as we advocate Strip-tillage, we will see more pores (three sizes We have observed that earthworms like to burrow deep in the tilled zones deep into the non-till zone of the strip-till and feed on the surface and then return. The diminished effort they have to make in the strip-till allows them quicker access to the previous crops residue. As they return to their burrows they stabilize the burrows due to their skin secretions making for larger conduits for water to enter the soil subsoil’s and substratum or underlying layers. Roots follow these tunnels with ease and I have observed 2 to 5 roots going on down one burrow frequently in the thousands of pits I have dug. Yes it sounds weird but folks, this is what makes the soils so dynamic and helpful to support healthier crops, improve soil sustainability and ultimately better yields.
All of the above offers to the grower a better chance to improve output of each seed he/she plants. I ask then, sharing our evidence and facts that soil physical characteristics do respond positively in the strip-till system to make a difference, it begs the question: are you helping your soils?

Download a copy of the report here: Benefits of StripTill_pores2013.

Strip-Tillage in Australia

Courtesy Hardman Communication.

Equipment choice saves Toowoomba grower three weeks in busy planting season

(January 2013) –  Grower Wayne Ziesemer has been able to significantly improve his operation since moving to the new Orthman 1tRIPr strip till system which is built to place fertiliser and prepare the seed bed in the one pass.

Wayne runs a 1,500-hectare cropping operation spread across two properties at Bongeen, 55 km west of Toowoomba with his wife Leanne and parents, Peter and Daph Ziesemer. His summer cropping operation includes a rotation of 500 hectares of sorghum with either 500 hectares of corn or cotton depending on seasonal conditions.

His decision to move to the Orthman 1tRIPr six months ago was based on the machine’s ability to combine strip till and nutrient placement at two depths in the one pass.

20 row 36" 1tRIPr strip tillage machineThe Orthman 1tRIPr, distributed through Muddy River Agricultural, is built to perform in the heaviest of stubble, with its ability to cut the soil surface and subsurface residue, while ensuring consistent depth due to its parallel linkages. In comparison, conventional till systems can lead to soil compaction due to the increased number of passes required to plough or till the soil prior to fertiliser application.

“We were impressed by the fact that the machine has been tried and tested in the United States with operators finding it can deliver up to 15 to 20 per cent yield increases, which makes it an appealing choice for our operation” said Wayne.

Potential fuel savings were also appealing for Wayne. “Fewer passes translates to lower fuel costs which adds to our overall profitability.”

“Using the Orthman, we had a beautiful plant line to follow and we were exceptionally pleased with the consistency of the seed bed. A good seed bed means good yields so we’re looking forward to a promising season ahead.”

Wayne’s machine has been modified to ensure it can meet the varied fertiliser requirements for both his irrigated and non-irrigated land.

“We ordered the 18.28 m model but had it modified so that it can fold to 9.14 m when working on our irrigated property, which requires smaller equipment due to the heavier soil. Being able to space the machine accordingly gives us a lot of flexibility and saved us having to buy two pieces of equipment.”

Two one tonne Anhydrous fertiliser tanks are attached to either side of the tractor during fertilising operations along with a 6,000 litre Simplicity air cart which is towed by a John Deere 8360RT.

“We planted our corn crops in early January as we got the rains on time. We were pleased with the strike and emergence rate of our corn which we put down to the previous working of the Orthman 1 tRIPr,” said Wayne.

For more information on the Orthman 1tRIPr and Muddy River Agriculture’s range of equipment, go to

See a video of this strip till machine here.

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.

Strip tillage research results

Results are pouring in from strip tillage studies around the globe, and drought conditions worldwide are showing that strip-till works!

In the Snake River Plains of Idaho, the University of Idaho, USDA-ARS in sugar beets, and Orthman Manufacturing have teams up to determine beet quality, sugar content, soil Nitrogen, beet tonnage, and residue effects on stand and beet yield. Download the study results white paper here.


In central Nebraska, Petersen looked at continuous corn, comparing No-Till and Strip-Till methods on irrigated ground. Download the the study results white paper here.

Studies were also conducted at the Orthman Research farm testing precision fertilizer placement and effects of sidedress fertilizer using coulter-injection and RTK guidance. Download the study results whitepaper here.

A third test in central Nebraska looked at the effects of strip tillage and precision fertilization practices with soybeans. Download the study results whitepaper here.

Dr. Laura Gentry continued the University of Illinois Sustainable project and noted the benefits that strip tillage had in a tough year of drought. Download the study results whitepaper here.



Soil density and compaction was analyzed by Kip Balkom and the University of Georgia. This sustainable projects at Tifton, GA looked at strip tillage and its effects on peanut production. Download the study results white paper here.



In central Texas, Coufal-Prater conducted side-by-side studies in dryland corn plots, testing conventional tillage vs strip tillage. Download the study results white paper here.



In Mpumalanga, South Africa – JWL Enterprises are investigating strip tillage methods, looking at fuel savings, fertilizer placement, moisture loss, and all the other benefits that strip tilling can impact. Download the study results white paper here.

StripTillFarmer article on fertilizer placement

Hot off the press! Here’s a Dan Zinkand article from Strip-Till Farmer magazine… talking about the benefits of fertilizer placement and strip tillage.

Read the complete story here, courtesy

From the story:
For successful results in strip-till, fertilizer needs to be placed in a zone where the roots and seedlings of corn can readily access plant-food nutrients.

But soil types, weather conditions and soil-sample results that affect the application timing and fertilizer placement and choice can all be major factors in that success.

For example, shallow placement of anhydrous ammonia in spring strip-tilled fields can burn the roots and kill germinating corn. And if strip-tillers apply anhydrous ammonia in the fall when the soil temperature is too warm — or if they strip-till into sandy soils — nitrogen can drop out of the seed zone.

Fertilizer programs and placement need to be just right, leaving an array of important choices for strip-tillers to make.

From the Mike Petersen interview:
“Plant roots don’t seek nutrition,” Petersen says. “They live in the presence of nutrition. Roots are pulled down by gravity and follow the warming of soil. If nutrition is in the same areas as the growing roots, they will be fed. But if the roots have to hunt for nutrition, the plant suffers and yields suffer.”

In the first 45 days of corn growth, the roots tend to grow in two triangles, one on top of the other, Petersen says. The corn roots in the top triangle represent the first shallow growth in that triangle, which is 6 inches tall and 13 inches across at the base.

The second stage of root growth is in a triangle that is 8 inches tall and 18 inches wide at the base, Petersen says. The top point of the second triangle starts 3½ inches below the surface of the soil, which is the top of the first triangle of root growth.

Roots in the top triangle represent the first 20 days of corn growth, while those in the bottom triangle are the next 25 days of growth.

“We must provide fertilizer for the plant so it’s healthy up to 45 days after emergence, which is when the corn plant determines yield,” he says. “At 45 days after emergence, the plant sets the number of rows around the cob.

“In the next 20 to 40 days — right up to pollination and shortly afterward — the corn plant sets the number of kernels running the length of the ear.”

Read the complete story here on the StriptillFarmer site.

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.