Fertilizer placement in soybeans

University of Ilinois 3-year study sees strip-till benefits

Courtesy Certified Crop Advisor

Compared to no-till, strip-till can offer improved seedbed conditions and deep banding of fertilizer. A group of researchers at the Dept. of Crop Sciences, Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, set out to quantify the effect of rate and placement of P and K in no-till and strip-till systems on soybean seed yield.

A 3-yr field experiment was conducted near Urbana, IL, on Flanagan silt loam (fine, smectitic, mesic Aquic Argiudolls) and Drummer silty clay loam (fine-silty, mixed, superactive, mesic Typic Endoaquolls) soils, with soybean planted following corn. Tillage/fertilizer placement was the main plot with no-till/broadcast (NTBC); no-till/deep band (NTDB); and strip-till/deep band (STDB); deep band placement was 6 inches beneath the planted row.

Phosphorus–fertilizer rate (0, 10.7, 21.4, and 32.1 lb P/acre per year) was the subplot, and potassium-fertilizer rate (0, 37.5, 75, and 150 lb K/acre per year) was the sub-subplot. Soil water, soil and trifoliate P and K, and seed yield were measured.

Strip-till/deep band produced a seed yield 10% greater than no-till/broadcast and 7% greater than no-till/deep band. At the same time, no-till/deep band produced a small but significant 4% greater yield than no-till/broadcast.

The researchers found that seed yield, number of pods per plant, and trifoliate P concentration and accumulation increased with P fertilization uniformly across tillage/fertilizer placement indicating that fertilization cannot be reduced with deep band applications relative to broadcast applications without a reduction in seed yield, but deep banding increased subsurface soil test levels.

Potassium fertilization decreased seed yield in both no-till systems but not in the strip-till/deep-band system. While P and K placement produced no differences, improved soybean yield and nutrient accumulation resulted from a tillage effect with strip-till/deep-band relative to the no-till systems.

Summary from:

No-Till and Strip-Till Soybean Production with Surface and Subsurface Phosphorus and Potassium Fertilization
Bhupinder S. Farmaha, Fabián G. Fernández, and Emerson D. Nafziger
Published in Agron. J. 103:1862-1869 (2011)

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Orthman 1tRIPr Gains the Top Yield in a Side-by-Side study in Illinois

The 1tRIPr 24% Increase in Yield over Competitor Strip-Till

In a hugely successful set of trials near Metamora, IL that had Channel Seed Co., D&M Enterprises, and Orthman Manufacturing, Inc. Orthman acknowledges the hard work and dedication of the many people involved to carry out a big Field Day in early September with 150 people showing up and all the work in the plots and harvesting the corn. Thank You!!
Read the attached report.

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Field day in Iowa

Benefits of strip-tillage on exhibit at the Iowa State Learning Farm

Join Orthman field reps and other experts from Iowa State University on Thursday, August 25 from 9am to 2:15 PM near Ames. The show will take place at the Iowa Learning Farm- click here to view the Iowa State Extension page.

Hear from ISU Experts:

Matt Darr on precision agriculture technology
Mark Hanna on strip-tillage equipment
Roger Elmore & Alison Robertson on corn and crop concern

An Orthman rep will be showing a 1tRIPr strip tillage machine at this show.

The event is free, and open to the public. Complimentary lunch will be provided.

Attendees will be able to learn about all aspects of strip-tillage, network with farmers who have been using this practice, talk with experts about crop issues and see in-field strip-tillage and precision agriculture demonstrations.

With the implementation of strip-tillage, landowners and farmers should see better water infiltration, improved soil structure, and potential for reduced fuel, machinery and other crop input costs. Before planting (fall post-harvest, or spring pre-plant) a strip-tillage implement creates strips of tilled soil. Surface residue is left undisturbed between the tilled strips. Corn or soybeans are planted into the tilled soil strips, which warm and dry faster than the rest of the field, making this system ideal for some Iowa soil types.

-courtesy Iowa State University Extension

The Lowdown on What Research is Going On at Orthman

Aug.5, 2011 It is a Cooperative Effort to Demonstrate to Growers an Advancing Strip-Till System

Our agronomist, Mike Petersen tapped out recently an article geared towards giving people more of an idea what is happening at the Orthman Research Farm. Please read the attached page an quarter to see the advancements we are working with and how that could be something you who strip-till may want to consider for the future.

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Orthman Research Farm Invite field day a Success!

July 27th Special Guests from 5 states came to learn more about Strip-Tillage System Technology

In the midst of the heat and high humidity at the Orthman Research Farm we brought growers, dealers, agronomists, Seed Company rep’s and fertilizer leaders in the learn more about what is happening with the Orthman Research teams work.
Right at 28 came and got exposed to better hybrid selections, a tweaked fertility program for Strip-Till, some No-Till plots compared to Strip-Till right adjacent, and new additives that are helping nutrient uptake.
We are working towards in continuous corn what are the main four details farmers should not miss for success in Strip-Tilled corn. Those are:
1] Fertilizers placed in the strip-till zone with accurate RTK guidance on the tractor
2] The best seedbed we know possible with the Precision Tillage machine – the Orthman 1tRIPr
3] Placing the seed source correctly and best hybrid that will root as deep as possible to garnish all the nutrients you provide plus what is down deep along with soil water
4] Make sure the products for nutrients fit your crop needs, using liquids timely makes for a sure bet

All our guests went away fortified and filled with some new skills and information in the filled folder we gave out to each person. We had folks from So. Dakota, Texas, Kansas, Nebraska and Illinois. A great group. We had two root digs open for all to see and explained well.

Minnesota Strip Till Expo to be held Friday 8/5

Join us Friday, August 5 in Owatonna, MN

Brought to you by the University of Minnesota and Riverland Community College, the 5th annual Minnesota Strip Till Expo will run from 8:30am to 3:30pm at the College and University Center (map link below).
Field demonstrations by major manufacturers of strip-tillage equipment will run from 9:00 to 11:00 and again at 1:00 to 3:00. Educational presentations by University researchers and Extension Educators on the economics, soil benefits, and proper management of strip tillage will run from 10:00 to 12:00 and 1:30 to 3:30. From 12:15 to 1:00, a panel of strip-tillage producers will discuss their experiences and share tips with attendees. The Iowa State University “Conservation Station” will also be present from 10:00 – 2:00, offering demonstrations including a rainfall simulator. Attendees can visit vendor and informational booths throughout the day.

  • Exhibits all day
  • Equipment demos 9-11 & 1-3
  • Panel discussion 12:15-1pm
  • Presentations 10-12 & 1:30-3:30

There is no charge to attend, and this Minnesota Strip-Till Expo will be held rain or shine. Food vendors will be on site. Orthman Mfg. will have a representative there and ready to answer questions anyone may have.

Click here for a map to the event at 965 Alexander Drive SW in Owatonna, MN.
Click here to download the event brochure (555KB).

Cooperative Field Research Reaches First Goal – June 23, 2011

Year number 30 for the Orthman Agronomist’s Root Studies has a different look!

Out in corn fields that are just reaching knee high in places our agronomist and his assistant have been investigating this month roots of corn to determine the “real” potential of a good crop or an excellent crop.

Mike has been studying roots now for 30 years (started in 1981) in regards to what are the positive and/or negative effects of tillage to what the American Farmer grows well – Maize(Corn). This year Orthman grabbed hands firmly with three seed companies to observe rooting structure, dimension, number and space (root-soil volume) occupied for the uptake of nutrients and water for six different lines with each company. He has found some real differences this year which has started out a bit wet. Each company entered varieties from 102 to 113 relative maturity days to see how precision placed fertilizer in a strip-till environment affects the rooting systems. Mike and his sidekick will follow through with more root digs in July then September to fully evaluate the differences in these corn hybrids and lines. It is more than hybrid number that they are looking at folks, this is looking at specific lines and the architecture of those crosses and how they grow underground. You ask why? The Orthman Company and the three advanced thinking seed companies are looking for the hybrids/lines that excel in a better conservation tillage environment where nutrients are right where the roots grow and roots can more easily extend deeper into the soil. Sorta getting the root system off on the right foot is the phrase – yes?

Mike said to us he would be offering a report of the progress soon after he first reports to the Seed Companies involved and they get a chance to see what is up or better – down! If a corn plant does not have a sound and vigorous root system – the potential to make big yields is not there no matter how much nitrogen you push.

Strip-till Corn-on-Corn

Courtesy No-TillFarmer.com

Read the article on the Strip Till Farmer site here.

By Dan Zinkand, Strip Till Farmer

After 15 years of ridge-tilling, Ulysses, Kan., farmer Larry Smith switched to strip-tilling 4 years ago and finds the practice helps him compensate for environmental factors he can’t control – chiefly, sandy soils and unstoppable wind.

The benefits are even more apparent this year, with much of the southern Plains locked in a historic drought.

“Soil erosion is terrible when the ground is bare,” says Smith, who grows continuous corn, winter wheat and milo (sorghum), irrigating all of them. “The residue with strip-till protects the ground and weed control is better, too, with the trash.”

Taking The Plunge

Smith farms in southwestern Kansas, about 50 miles from both Oklahoma and Colorado. The area is very arid. Rainfall averages 3-5 inches between May and September, but there’s been even less rain than normal during the past 12 months.

He strip-tilled for 2 years with a neighbor, then bought a 12-row, 30-foot-wide Orthman 1tRIPr with 30-inch row spacing. Smith uses a 275-horsepower John Deere 8530, carrying 1,000 gallons of fertilizer for planting corn at a seed population of 32,000 per acre.

“In the fall, we apply about 210 pounds per acre of anhydrous while we’re strip-tilling, then put down 60-70 pounds of nitrogen as starter with the planter, along with a starter blend,” Smith says. “If we need more nitrogen, we put 32% liquid nitrogen on in the summer through the center-pivot irrigation system.”

Dealing With Residue

There are tradeoffs in switching from ridge-tilling to strip-tilling, Smith says. With ridge-till, it cost money to mow stalks after harvesting corn. He now lightly discs corn stalks 2-3 inches deep to make it easier to strip-till in the fall.

Smith is dealing with two problems: Corn residue that covers the strips and interferes with planting, as well as berms that settle too much during the winter.

“Corn stalks blow back on top of the strips during the winter and spring,” Smith says. “In our area, strong winds are common. This spring, peak winds hit 74 mph. And it’s very common to have winds of 50 mph.”

Also, when he plants corn in the spring, the 2-to-3-inch-high berms have settled and there’s a bit of a dip, which is covered by residue.

“The corn planter can’t handle that much trash,” Smith says. “With the higher ridges in ridge-till, we never had any problems. We re-formed the ridges in the summer and the trash blew into the bottom of the furrows.”

This spring Smith faced the same problem, even with a 12-row John Deere 70-series corn planter equipped with Yetter residue managers. So he removed the ripper shanks from the Orthman 1tRIPr and ran the strip-till rig through the fields.

“We used the trash whippers on the Orthman to re-clean and re-form the strips,” Smith says. “With our RTK guidance system, we used a 15-foot offset in the fields. This kept us from going over the wheel tracks from when we strip-tilled last fall, and it also made it easier for the corn planter to manage the trash.”

Smith thinks that making taller berms when strip-tilling in the fall may solve the problem. He also plans to add hilling discs to the strip-till rig to make taller berms in the fall.

A Better Seedbed

Despite dealing with the problem of blowing corn stalks and settling berms, Smith likes the results he sees from strip-tilling.

“I think we have a bit better seedbed than when we ridge-tilled,” he says. “With strip-till, when we plant corn, we have less of a problem of hitting root crowns from the previous year’s corn crop. And the corn seems to come up fast, too.”

Smith says strip-tillers shouldn’t be afraid of discing corn stalks lightly in the fall before making strips, putting on fertilizer and building berms. He says light discing allows him to smooth out tracks left by the center-pivot irrigation system. But he warns not to disc more than 2 to 3 inches deep.

Since he started strip-tilling 4 years ago, Smith has learned the importance of replacing the points on the 1tRIPr before they are visibly worn.

“The condition of the points affects their lifting action as the 1tRIPr moves through the field,” he says. “If you keep good points on the rig, you get good lift and it makes higher berms. But if you wait until the points are worn down 75% of the way, you lose the benefits of their lifting action.”

Smith says it’s difficult to tell just how much strip-till has contributed to the increase in corn yields vs. ridge-tilled corn yields. He points to the improvements in corn hybrids as a major reason.

“By and large, our corn-on-corn averages 225 to 275 bushels per acre,” Smith says. “We’ve had yields just under 300 bushels per acre.”

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Avoid 4 Common Strip-Till Mistakes

As seen at No-TillFarmer.com

Avoid 4 Strip-Till Mistakes By Mark Moore, courtesy No-TillFarmer.com
View the story on their site here.

Strip-till requires a high degree of management, but strip-tillers can avoid four common mistakes by considering the advice of equipment manufacturers.

No. 1 Understand Equipment

Growers need to understand that strip-till equipment is unique.

It may function flawlessly in mellow soils that break and crumble in textbook fashion. In other conditions, the strip-till unit may need to function as a primary tillage tool operating in hard, compacted soils that are wet, rock and stone infested, and are nearly impossible to break into manageable pieces, says Gary Wallander, product support coordinator for Brillion Farm Equipment.

Add 200-bushel-plus corn residue or 60-bushel bean residue and things get very interesting.

“It’s situations like this that beg strip-tillers to set their expectation level where they are comfortable,” Wallander says. “In most cases, there is not a generic strip-till machine that will work in all conditions all of the time.”

Vince Tomlonovic, general manager of Hiniker Company, agrees that producers must be careful to make the necessary adjustments based on conditions.

“Seldom does one setting fit all conditions,” he says.

Horsepower Needs Key

Producers also make the mistake of being underpowered when using a strip-till implement.

“Strip-till implements, pulled at the proper depth, require 20 to 30 horsepower per shank,” says Mike Petersen, precision tillage agronomist at Orthman. “A grower who believes his row width must be consistent from strip-till to planter to harvest and tries to pull a 12-row tool 8 inches deep at 5 mph with a 200-horsepower tractor can find all kinds of troubles,” Petersen says. “As a result, we see a lot of broken-down tractors, too much slippage, high fuel consumption, reduced pulling speed, cloddy conditions, poor seedbed and headaches galore.”
While each of the strip-till tools on the market today have a recommended power need to pull each shank in the ground, Petersen adds it’s critical that you know your soil types.

“Sandy soils will require approximately 20 horsepower per shank unless the soil is seriously compacted, then sandy soils are like concrete,” Petersen says. “The heavier the texture, we know our tool will require 30 horsepower per shank.”

“Studies have shown that in sandy-clay-loam soils, up to 4,000 pounds of force is required to push the shank into the ground and pull it at depths greater than 12 inches. Multiply that across 12 rows and there is a need for lots of horses up front to get the job done.”

“It’s also well known that after 2 years of strip-tilling, farmers have seen a decrease in power needs because of the soil becoming more mellow, increased worm action, more residues and improved moisture conditions.”

Determine Strip-Till Goals

Richard Follmer, owner and engineer of Progressive Farm Products, says producers can make strip-tilling very easy or very hard, depending on the equipment.

“Farmers need to think about what they want to accomplish and how they want to accomplish it,” Follmer says. “When buying equipment for strip-till, the farmer needs to decide what fertilizer he’s going to place in the strips — dry or liquid — and whether he is going to apply anhydrous ammonia at the same time and how he will do that.”

One concept a producer should avoid is pulling a “train” through the field, Follmer says. This “train” would consist of the tractor, pull-between dry or liquid, a toolbar and nurse tank and would have a length of 100-plus feet.

“Unless you have a winch on your toolbar, how do you back this “train” up to hook up to the nurse tank? What do you do when you get into a tight corner? How do you back into a corner?” Follmer says. “What the farmer needs to do is purchase a bar that has the dry or liquid equipment mounted right on the toolbar, is moved around like a two-wheeled cart and can be backed up and hooked up to a nurse tank by just the driver.”

(Editor’s Note: In July 2010, Kongskilde acquired Progressive Farm Products from Follmer, who agreed to continue with the company, working in research and development.)

Improper Attachment Setup

Rob Zemenchik, Case IH marketing manager of tillage products says he often sees equipment not set up with the necessary attachments to handle different residue, down pressure and agronomic requirements.

“Residue managers, if necessary, should be on the planter, not the strip-till unit,” Zemenchik says. “Overly exposing the berm to weather over the winter can lead to berm erosion, leaving fields flat and losing the warm-up and drydown benefits of strip-till.”

He also sees many producers not correctly matching their strip-till components.

“Tractor horsepower and configuration, monitoring systems, planters and other implements need to interact well with the strip-till machine,” Zemenchik says.

“For example, picking ‘cheaper’ strip-till machines or converting old bars to reduce the cost of transition from conventional tillage may provide less draft, but often give up shank-depth consistency and holding power, leading to inconsistent field output, fertilizer placement when simultaneously root zone banding and planting depths.”

Take Time To Adjust

Producers know the importance of spending time evaluating the performance of their combines to achieve proper performance.

Experienced strip-tillers understand the need to give similar focus to their strip-till applicator as they are performing many important operations in one pass, says Steve Drissel, tillage marketing manager for John Deere.

“Many times, strip-till machines are set and adjusted at the farm site, but the settings may not get the attention in the field that they deserve,””Drissel says. “Producers will spend hours, even days adjusting their combines — which is important. They need to spend a little time looking at their machines in operation within the field.”

The consequences of not properly setting the machine means residue will not flow through the machine properly, nutrients will not be placed at proper depths and the machine will pull too hard or easy. It can lead to seedbed inconsistencies and a berm that’s too tall or too flat.

“It can be very difficult for the operator to see all of the components from the cab of the tractor and the operation of the tool; therefore, it’s very important that a person on the ground view the machine while it’s at proper speed and depth,” Drissel adds.

“Some of the things to watch for include being level front to rear and side to side, the front coulters cutting the residue, observing the row cleaners moving residue, the closing discs moving soil, the baskets sizing clods and the firming of the berm. Similar to a combine, make only one adjustment at a time and observe that adjustment in operation.

“It’s important to understand that making one adjustment can have an impact on another area of the machine, so some settings may need to be re-checked after all adjustments are made.”

Maintain Suggested Speeds

Nick Jensen, chief marketing officer for Thurston Manufacturing, says producers often don’t stay within the recommended operating speeds.

“Most farm implements come with a recommended operating speed, and most operators tend to ignore the recommended operating speed,” Jensen says. “If you do this with a strip-till applicator, no part of the strip-till implement will run properly.”

Run too slowly and coulters will not have the proper rotational speed on the blade to cut correctly, Jensen says. Residue management tools will not sweep residue out of the row; shanks will not fracture and stir the soil optimally; disc closers will not fill and hill the furrow properly; and baskets will not break up clods and level correctly.

Run too fast and residue management tools may throw residue into neighboring rows, Jensen says. Fertilizer may not be evenly distributed throughout the row or may be placed unevenly within the row if the distribution system cannot keep up.

“Operate the machinery at the manufacturers’ recommended operating speed and make sure you have a tractor with enough horsepower to pull the implement at the recommended operating speed without cheating on depth,” Jensen says.

“If you’re unable to complete your strip-till in the fall without exceeding the recommended operating speed, consider getting a strip-till implement with a wider swath width, running multiple strip-till implements or finishing in the spring.”

Think Systems Approach

Dean Carstens, president of Twin Diamond Industries, says producers must not think of strip-till as just another tillage method.

“The consequences of thinking that all strip-till is just another piece of metal will deprive the farmer of the true profit potential,” Carstens says.

The most common mistake made by producers is assuming that any strip-till machine will go through anything, he says.

“Trash management behind the combine is extremely critical,” Carstens adds. “Uneven distribution of residue creates nightmares for the strip-till and planter operators. Avoid hairpinning of residue by investing in a chopper/spreader for your combine.”

Mistakes Trying To Match

Mark Bauer, CEO of Environmental Tillage Systems, cautions producers that it’s not necessary to try to match the strip-till machine to the size of their planter.

“Trying to match a 12-row planter with a 12-row strip-till machine can result in a mismatch, if the tractor is not large enough to handle the size of the strip-till machine,” says Bauer, who strip-tills on his farm.

“This can result in not achieving the proper depth of tillage. Also, this can result in limiting the tractor’s ability to handle the strip-till machine in less-than-favorable conditions, such as an early snowfall.”

Derek Allensworth, manager with Yetter Manufacturing, says strip-tillage equipment design is different and has to be set for the desired results.

“Depending on soil types, field conditions, fall or spring strip-till, crop rotations, speed, depth, desired strip width or height, fertilizer being placed or type of knife being used, these all are items the farmer needs to consider when setting the equipment for the desired strip or berm,” he says.

No. 2 Invest In Guidance

“When the grower decides to make the step to strip-till, they need to consider incorporating a quality guidance system into the program from the beginning,” Brillion’s Wallander says. “This is a major investment, but the payback will be very generous.

“Many growers who started out without a guidance system have later made the investment and wish they had done it sooner.”

Stripping Requires Accuracy

Proper GPS precision guidance is necessary to fertilize, strip-till and return to the same rows next spring, Orthman’s Petersen adds.

“We’ve seen recent research that found the placement of fertility has great implications on growth and potential yield. In Oklahoma, Nebraska and Colorado, separate projects found that planting 8 inches off of center from where the fertilizer was placed caused diminished stands and a 30-bushel drop in continuous-corn yields,” Petersen says.

“In high-residue conditions, if residue blows around and covers the strip, it becomes difficult to see where to drive the tractor and planter. Seeding can be a great headache for growers without GPS repeatable guidance.

“Top-quality GPS guidance has become a powerful ally for the grower. Being able to come back onto a line where strip-tilling was done and the fertilizer was placed and wanting to turn the soil into a top-notch seedbed is what strip-tillers need at planting time.”

Embrace Precision Technology

Jensen adds that some producers are using row markers instead of GPS with field-mapping capabilities.

“Yield loss from missing the center of the strip-tilled row when planting has shown to be more dramatic than some might think,” Jensen says. “Yield loss can begin to occur when the seed is planted as little as 2 inches off center in a strip-tilled row and increases from there.

“Being off the row will affect germination, plant stand and root development. It can put unnecessary stress on a young plant during critical times of development.”

Moving to strip-till means it’s time to embrace technology like RTK.

“That will enable users to match their 12-row planter with an 8-row or even a 6-row strip-till machine,” Bauer says. “Users should focus on matching their strip-till machine to the horsepower of their tractor, rather than to the size of their planter.”

No. 3 Consider Soil Conditions

“Numerous customers are of the belief that all soil types and conditions will work the same,” Wallander says. “This is one area where equipment can come into the equation. Strip-till machines need to be versatile so different conditions can be met.”

Know The Compaction Level

Petersen says producers may not take into account the depth of the common compaction layer. They may run the strip-till implement too shallow and not alleviate compaction.

“Compaction limits intake of water, downward water movement, root development, drainage of the surface and yield,” Petersen says. “Producers need to dig observation holes in several areas of a field to determine where the compaction zone occurs, how thick it is, what depth the compaction zone’s bottom is and knowing what tool to use to alleviate the problem.

“When that is determined, adjust your shank to get under the compacted zone to shatter it; however, you don’t want to do that to the point that you cause it to explode and roll in front of the shank and cause huge clods, gaps and fissures. That can dry out the soil and create cavities that may cave in the soil, creating a rough seedbed that is up and down and rolling like a roller coaster ride.

“When tilled to the correct depth, the seedbed will turn out mellow after a winter season.”

Manage Residue Properly

Follmer says that when strip-tilling in continuous corn programs, producers should lay out the new strips between the old corn rows rather than trying to go back on top of the old rows.

“This reduces plugging of the row units. Also, driving on top of last year’s corn rows reduces compaction,” he says.

Drissel says residue management must be correct for every piece of equipment from the combine all the way to the in-crop spray applications.

“Producers may experience residue flow complications in areas of the field where the stalks were not managed properly by the header or residue was not evenly spread from the rear of the combine,” he says. “It should be verified that the combine is operating at the proper ground speed compared to the speed of the corn head.

“Knife rolls or fluted rolls, the rear chopper and the spreader should have worn parts replaced and be operating correctly.”

Avoid Operating When Wet

Producers may also try to strip-till in poor conditions, trying to complete work before winter sets in.

“If the soil is too wet, any strip-till applicator can cause sidewall smearing,” Jensen says. “The additional soil compaction effects from the sidewall smear and pulling heavy equipment over wet soil will very likely negate any gains in yield that strip-till would have provided.

“If compaction layers exist within your soil profile, you will rarely see any advantage to strip-till. Soil compaction must be alleviated in order for strip-till to work, so make sure you don’t cause compaction by strip-tilling in wet soil.”

Tony Randall, national sales manager for Redball, says producers should remember that strip-till is a tillage pass. With all types of tillage, sometimes no tillage is better for the soil than working too wet.

“If fall strip-tillage is being done, you almost always have a large window left to complete the strip-till pass, so let the soil dry,” he says.

Don’t Be Too Fine

Bauer says producers also sometimes leave the soil texture too fine in the fall.

“After fall tillage, the soil should be coarse,” he says. “The zone should be capped by a 4- to 5-inch mound of chunky, rough soil. The coarse soil texture is needed to handle the weather.

“Rapid snow melt in the spring, when the ground is still frozen, can result in erosion in the zone when the soil has been worked to a fine texture and has been matted down. Further, if containment coulters leave a consistent cut down the side of the zone, a runoff channel can form, resulting in increased water erosion.”

Allensworth says farmers are accustomed to field tillage in less-than-ideal situations.

“With strip-till, you have to remember that you are making next year’s seedbed and this is not the field where you will be making two or three passes next spring,” he says.

No. 4 Poor Fertility Management

Producers who try to apply all of their nitrogen with a fall strip-till operation increase the odds of leaching nitrogen out the bottom of the soil profile or beyond the reach of roots.

“That a potential waste of thousands of dollars when fertilizer is lost beyond what the growing crop can access. Each implement pass in the field adds cost and with fertilizer, it’s expensive,” Petersen says. “This is an issue for those who want to apply large quantities of anhydrous in the fall.”

“With nitrogen costing $1,100 per ton, applying single shots at 200 pounds per acre is courting disaster and monetary loss.”

Splitting the amounts, something akin to spoon-feeding the crop, will provide the best benefit to the bottom line. This method gives farmers a chance to see through some tissue or leaf sampling or soil sampling that a lump sum of 250 pounds of nitrogen was not necessary and ultimately saves money.

Applying smaller doses of nitrogen and feeding the crop in increments allows the grower to exercise fertilizer options—anhydrous vs. varying formulations of liquid, nitrogen with sulfur compounds, nitrogen with phosphates, stable low-salt nitrogen formulas and slow-release nitrogen compounds.

Petersen says this can enhance the grower’s opportunities to decrease cost, become more crop efficient, potentially use less products and usually grow a healthier plant.

Carstens says a serious mistake is planting over strips that have had too much ammonia applied. The consequence is loss of stand.

“The opinions on the maximum amount of anhydrous ammonia to be applied are as varied as there are stars in the sky,” he says. “The general rule of thumb is the higher the ammonia rates, the higher the risks,” he says. “To avoid loss of stand, we suggest split-applying nitrogen.”

As an example, Carstens says consider strip-tilling 90 to 120 pounds of anhydrous ammonia with 6 to 9 gallons of 10-34-0. The dual application will create a smaller diffusion band of anhydrous ammonia. Use a higher nitrogen starter (2-inch by 2-inch placement or 2-inch with dribble) like a 30-10-0-5 liquid starter.

Sidedress additional anhydrous ammonia or 28-0-0-5, or foliar feed a slow-release nitrogen when Roundup is applied. By split-applying the nitrogen, considerable reductions in nitrogen can be taken.”

Randall says producers also make the mistake of applying anhydrous ammonia too early.

“In fall strip-tillage, farmers must remember the window is there to wait for soil temperatures to cool before applying anhydrous ammonia,” he says. “If applied too early, expensive nitrogen might be lost. This is no different than fall-applied nitrogen using a standard toolbar system.”

According to Follmer, many farmers are applying only anhydrous ammonia in their strips and broadcasting phosphorus and potassium.

“When doing this, they are missing out on the real savings of applying the P and K along in the strip. You can usually reduce your P and K rates in half. At the cost of P and K, a farmer can pay for a strip-till toolbar very quickly in savings,” Follmer says.

Bauer says applying phosphorus and potassium and other nutrients in the fall and distributing fertilizer evenly throughout the zone allows the phosphorus and potassium to be processed by the microbial action in the soil.

“In addition, applying P and K in the spring can result in burning the seed from contact with P and K oxides from heavy salt fertilizers,” Bauer explains. “As much as a 40% higher utilization of the nutrients can be available for the plants, leading to higher overall yields. This can be even more important in low-fertility soils.”

Some producers are not even using a fertilizer program with strip-till.

“One of the primary advantages of strip-till is being able to place fertilizer in the root zone while creating a seedbed in a one-pass operation,” Jensen says. “If you’re not currently placing fertilizer with your strip-till applicator, you are missing out on roughly half of the advantages of using strip-till.”

Talk with a local agronomist or other strip-tillers that have experience with fertilizer placement in your area to find out what has worked well for them, Jensen says. Then talk to your equipment dealer to see what fertilizer application options are available on your strip-till implement.

Carstens says a common mistake is assuming the fertility programs used in past practices are the same used in strip-tilling.

“Not understanding the program could lead to over- or under-application of fertilizer, poor timing and many other adverse effects,” Carstens says. “The key to successful strip-tilling is to know where the fertilizer goes, when to apply, what to apply and how much to apply.”

“To avoid the challenges, seek professional help and suppliers who can answer your questions with valid and confirmable information.”

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Why EVERY row crop farmer should strip-till

3 reasons for increased yields

Since the late 1990’s strip-tillage has changed the way many farmers carry out their pre-plant tillage, an operation which is truly a top-notch Conservation Tillage System. Growers from California to Delaware, and Montana to the Coastal Plains of Texas have seen advantages in economics, soil quality improvements, fewer passes before they plant, erosion protection, water savings, time savings, fertilizer placement and maybe half dozen more good things when they strip-till. We at Orthman have been developing and building the 1tRIPr Pre-plant Tillage and Precision Nutrient Placement System Tool well over a decade. We are confident that no other manufacturer has more strip-till acres under their belts than do we. Let us illuminate three primary advantages of the 1tRIPr strip-till system.

Take a good look at seed- it’s relatively small and has little energy, it needs all the help it can get to grow. Even with a fairly large seed like corn, compared to smaller ones like lettuce, carrots, grain sorghum, and mustards, we must consider how big a job it is to become a robust row crop. There are so many factors to consider, including chemical changes, carbohydrates stored, depth of seed, sunlight exposure, and more – bottom line is, all of these factors are assisted when you provide a proper seedbed.

It is very important that a warm seedbed be nearly free of residue, not just pushed aside. Other factors that impede roots are hard clods in the tilled zone (Konopka et al, 2008), hard remnant residues like old corn cobs and hard root crowns, and remnants of subsoil units brought up from deep subsoiling/ripping. As you know, seed-to-soil contact is vital to the start of any row crop.

Alleviating compaction below the seed while minimizing hard clods the till zone are of great importance. Tilling just below soil compaction (the 1tRIPr can run up to a 12″ depth), and precisely placing nutrients in the center of the strip at two specific depths is important to root development and subsequent leaf and shoot development. Remember, most seedling roots can exert about 80-100psi of force to grow downward, and compaction above those levels can severely limit growth. In other readings I found that Taylor and Brar (1991) and (Bengough et al, 2011) reported that soil compaction can also change the plant root systems chemically and biologically as well. How important is compaction? These two studies principally considered it the most relevant factor influencing root growth for today’s farmer!

At the Orthman Research Farm near Lexington, Nebraska, we have conducted numerous Strip-Till vs. No-Till trials. In our area, the No-Till (Direct Seeded) clay loam soils have soil densities of 1.50 to 1.62g/cm3, and have exhibited very slow root penetration. Compaction increases “bulk density” (think of bulk density as the ‘strength’ of the soil) and higher bulk density obviously impedes plant growth. Compaction also affects conductivity, permeability, and diffusivity to water and air (Greenland 1977). Penetrometer readings have told us that it requires 265 to 315 pounds of downward force to steadily push the probe below a zone of compaction (7.5 to 8.5 inches in depth) in the No-Till trial areas.

Moving several rows over into the 1tRIPr strip-tilled zone, we find a soil density of 1.29 – 1.34 g/cm3 after fall strip-till. This spring we observed soil densities of 1.05 to 1.16 g/cm3 after strip-tilling in the very first few days of April. Simply put, Strip-Till ground is less dense than the No-Till ground which is good for the crop.

The corn we planted this spring will be rooting into in an environment that can extend further into the soil profile. Less soil density with strip-till allows the roots to obtain nutrients and moisture for photosynthetic growth, last year’s macropores and channels (Passioura, 1991) from the deterioration of old root crowns. Recent research (Bengough et al., 2011) agrees that improved root numbers can occur when soil resistance is lowered for root penetration. Earthworm burrows under old root crowns will allow rapid root growth due to little resistance, providing readily-accessible nutrients and an easy flow of water from above. I have personally observed a gathering of 5 to 7 corn roots growing in an old worm channel adhered right to the walls and I admit that particular plant was doing quite well. I have seen (and dug!) thousands of root pits of the last 38 years, and think it is so vital for all growers to really consider root responses to soil strength. Harsh soil conditions limit root growth and proper development, and in turn negatively impact yield. Strip-tilling addresses these soils conditions and offers an environment for the crop to reach its potential, which is obviously any grower’s goal.

Greenland, D.J. 1977. Soil Damage by intensive arable cultivation: temporary or permanent? Philos. Trans. R. Society, London B., 281: 193-208
Konopka, B., Pages, L., and Doussan, C. 2008. Impact of soil compaction heterogeneity and moisture on maize root and shoot development. Plant Soil Environ. 54:2008(12): 509-519
Passioura, J.B., 1991. Soil structure and plant growth Australian Journ. Of Soil Research 121: 170-175
Bengough, A.G., McKenzie, B.M., Hallett, P.D., and Valentine, T.A., 2011. Root elongation, water stress, and mechanical impedance: A review of limiting stresses and beneficial root tip traits. Journ. of Experimental Botany. Vol.62,#1: 59-68
Taylor, B.H., and Brar, G.S. 1991. Effect of soil compaction on root development. Soil Tillage Research 19:111-119

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Strip-till financial rewards – Steve Norberg (OSU Extension)

Oregon State University Extension discusses strip-till economics

From No-TillFarmer.com

Farmers growing irrigated corn after wheat could save tens of thousands – even hundreds of thousands – of dollars by switching from conventional tillage to strip-till, says Steve Norberg, Oregon State University Extension crops specialist.

Norberg considered the long-term economics of changing to strip-till corn after wheat in a sprinkler-irrigated system vs. conventional tillage.

His assumptions factor in the life expectancy of equipment at 2,000 hours, and figure the savings after buying a strip-till rig and carrying the loan for 5 years.

Norberg estimates the total savings, after 10 years of strip-tilling 175 acres, at $66,170. For 250 acres the savings would be $122,790; and for 500 acres the savings would be $311,540.

Economics of Strip-Tillage
“The calculations illustrate how producers planting corn after wheat under a sprinkler-irrigation system would compare the savings of strip-tillage to conventional tillage,” Norberg says.

“This example assumes two things. First, that the producer exchanges a rolling stalk-chopper or turbo-till and a glyphosate application for one discing to kill volunteer wheat after wheat harvest and, second, that strip-tillage eliminates plowing, another discing, fertilizer application, cultivation and a dammer-diker operation.

Norberg says the cost of tillage and spraying used in this example came from the Malheur County, Ore., Custom Agriculture Operators in 2010.

Since no custom rate for strip-till has been established, fuel and labor costs for operating a strip-tillage unit were estimated, as was the calculated savings toward purchasing and maintaining a strip-tillage unit.

Norberg estimates the cost of a six-row, 30-inch spacing strip-till rig at $30,000, plus an additional $20,000 for RTK GPS. Yearly payments, including GPS, would be $13,192 for 5 years, for a total cost of $65,960. That includes 10% interest.

“An eight-row unit would probably be a better fit for 500 acres, but we used a six-row unit for our example,” he says. “The number of rows and the width per row of the strip-till rig must match your planter and the horsepower of your tractor.”

Reasons For Slow Strip-Till Adoption

Norberg says there are a number of reasons why growers in areas with intense irrigation have been slow to adopt reduced tillage.

“Residue can interfere with water movement in corrugates or furrows, causing irrigation-management problems, non-uniform irrigation and reduced yields. But sprinkler-irrigated areas do not have this problem,” he says. “Strip-tillage works with furrow irrigation when all the residue is removed with crops such as alfalfa and corn silage.

“Small-seeded, high-value crops require better seed-to-soil contact than large-seeded crops and require more management when considering strip-tillage.”

See the article as well as the data chart at No-TillFarmer.com

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Monsanto publishes Recently Completed National Summary — Read it Here!

8 years of strip-tillage research with Orthman’s own – Mike Petersen and Monsanto’s Jeff Tichota show strip-tillage benefits In Western Corn Belt

Click here to download a PDF copy of the article at the Monsanto site.

Corn Production and Strip-Tillage in the Western Plains
An Emphasis on Irrigation Management, Fertilizer Placement, Soil Health, and Drought Tolerance in a Challenging Environment

Corn, sorghum, soybeans, small grains, alfalfa, sunflowers, and many other crops are grown in the semi-arid environment of the central Great Plains and southern High Plains. Natural precipitation is often deficient in the Great Plains. A harsh, unpredictable, and diverse climate in these Plains areas makes the production of corn and other crops challenging and risky. Strip-tillage is a production option that can improve yield potential due to realized benefits in irrigation use efficiency and better soil and plant health.

Annual rainfall from the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado to Eastern Kansas varies from 16 inches to approximately 32 inches, respectively [1,2]. These precipitation values are less than one-half compared to annual precipitation in much of the Corn Belt. During the summer months, it is common to experience several continuous weeks of daytime temperatures in the high 90s F and low relative humidity levels (< 20%) in parts of the region. Combined with winds in excess of 15 mph, and exposed soils, evaporative losses in the area can exceed 0.50 inch per day. Despite the challenges of limited natural precipitation and compaction layers (soil health) also affect the ability of the high evapotranspiration (ET), the area is particularly well-suited for corn production. Long days that are filled with sunshine and low humidity, and cool nights (50s F) are ideal for sugar production. But the shortage and variation in year-to-year precipitation and high ET rates requires many producers to rely on irrigation to increase and stabilize crop production. One of the highest ET rates in North America was recorded near Bushland, Texas, at 0.6 inch per day [3]. The Central High Plains (Western Kansas, Eastern Colorado, and Southwestern Nebraska) can experience 2.52 inches per week of ET for several weeks at a time with little or no rain. Corn, grain sorghum, beans, and small grains can all wilt and suffer yield loss, damage, and occasionally premature death in such growing conditions. Synergistic interactions between improved agronomic practices, notably irrigation management, fertilizer placement, soil health, and plant breeding efforts, such as drought tolerance, may help to mitigate some of the environmental challenges and improve yield potential in the area. Water, Soil Health, and Plant Health
The relationship between corn plants and their soil environment is critical to successful irrigation management and subsequent yield potential. Total seasonal water use, daily crop water use, the rate of plant development, and rooting depth (plant health) all affect growth and development. In turn, a healthy plant is able to extract more water from the soil and improve yield potential. Soil water holding capacity, water intake rate, and the presence of any compaction layers (soil health) all affect the ability of the crop to utilize water and can affect yield potential. Water quantity and quality are also important factors in soil and plant health. Irrigation water quantity may affect crop productivity more than any other factor, including choice of hybrid, fertility, and weed management.

Irrigated Corn, Population Growth, and Limits on Water
The Ogallala Aquifer provides water for approximately 13 million irrigated acres of farmland in the region [4]. The aquifer is the world’s largest underground water system providing drinking water to parts of Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. Initially, water supplies seemed limitless, but in the 1990s the wells began to lose output. A severe drought period from 1998 through 2007 further challenged traditional irrigation management practices, and the Ogallala Unconsolidated Aquifer began to run low. Limitations in the supply of precipitation and irrigation combined with other harsh environmental parameters required attentive and adaptive crop management practices.

Some of the key differences between corn production in central Great Plains and southern High Plains compared to the central and eastern Corn Belt include irrigation management, tillage, residue management, fertility, soil health, and hybrid selection. Conservation-tillage and strip-tillage have been gaining popularity in the Plains region during the past decade (Table 1, download the PDF to view illustrations) partly due to soil improvements and corn production innovation.

Corn Production and a Strip-Tillage Approach
Strip-Tillage Defined
Strip-tillage, or strip-till, is a form of vertical zone tillage that combines the benefits of zero-tillage and conventional-tillage. Narrow row strips, usually 8 to 10 inches wide and 8 to 12 inches deep, are tilled by way of a residue cutting coulter and a soil displacing mole knife. The area between the rows is undisturbed, while the tilled strips correspond to planter rows. Fertilizer may be injected into the tilled area during the strip-tilling process. Due to the demand for grazing stalks in the fall, strip-tillage practices in the Western Plains are commonly performed in the spring.

Benefits of Strip-Tillage
Some of the more immediate benefits of strip-tillage include the field-wide preservation of soil colloids, soil pores, and root channels from previous crops. Strip-tillage also helps to preserve crop residue which aids in the buildup of soil organic matter. Additionally, the presence of large pores in the soil increases water percolation and improves crop rooting. Long-term research studies conducted at the Irrigation Research Foundation (IRF) in Yuma, CO, from 2003 to 2008 showed that utilization of strip-tillage and strategic fertilizer placement improves the three facets of yield potential: water, soil, and plant health. Soils that were managed under strip-tillage conditions had more beneficial worms per square foot, more frequent and larger soil pores per square inch, greater percent organic matter, faster water infiltration rates, and greater crop yields compared to soils that were managed under conventional-tillage. Strip-tillage acreage in the Great Plains has greatly increased since the year 2000.

Improvements in Fertility
Growers manage the economics of fertilizer inputs. With strip-tillage, the focus is to place it right within the root-zone for immediate uptake.
In order to grow a larger and more effective root system and healthier plant, nutrients should be readily available. Roots placed in close proximity to nutrients allow plants to thrive. Plants will expend more energy to grow and produce grain when nutrients are not available close to the plant. With the strip-tillage system, growers can place fertilizer within the tillage band, at different depths to feed the plant. By precisely placing fertilizer, the grower can take advantage of more moist conditions in order for the nutrient to go into soil solution to access it by the roots. With knowledge gained from studies conducted at the IRF, researchers were able to use less total nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) to obtain equal or better corn yields in a strip-tillage system compared to the common approach of broadcasting fertilizer. Results have been expressed in deeper roots, more total root inches and consistent higher yields. In addition to the IRF studies, research was conducted at a private farm near Mingo, KS and at the Kansas State University Northwest Research Extension Center near Colby, KS.

Weather Patterns 2001-08.
A widespread drought affected crop production across western Nebraska, Colorado, western Kansas and the Texas panhandle during the first five years of the study period. Winter moisture was generally limited and accompanied by above-normal temperatures and wind. Spring and summer rainfall was generally deficient compared to long-term averages for these periods. Summer temperatures exceeded 100 F numerous times during several growing seasons. In 2003, the daytime temperature exceeded 100 F for more than sixty contiguous days. Irrigation well levels dropped and some pivots were not able to supply adequate water for crop use. In some cases, one-half of a pivot was abandoned to increase water supply to the other half.

Study Guidelines
Large plot trials were conducted during 2001 through 2008 to evaluate strip-tillage and conventional-tillage practices in the context of soil and plant health. Studies were performed in full- and limited-irrigation environments for six of the seven years. Limited irrigation water studies were conducted with Dr. Freddie Lamm of KSU Colby, KS at the Northwest Research and Extension Center and with a grower Mark Myers near Mingo, KS. A short- and long-season corn hybrid were included in some of the test years. Standard agronomic practices were followed for each tillage system. Standard corn hybrid products with a relative maturity appropriate to the area were selected for use in the studies. Conclusions should be drawn with the qualification that results are from multiple-year, non-replicated studies.

Results and Discussion

Soil Health
Soils that were managed under strip-tillage had reduced compaction compared to soils that were managed under conventional-tillage. Soil pores hold the air and water necessary for plant growth. Compacted soils are dense and had smaller pores compared to healthy soils. Compacted soils have reduced infiltration rates, and resulted in ponding and crusting after moderate to heavy rainfall (Figure 1, download the PDF for illustrations). Plants were less able to extract nutrients from compacted soils. Soil compaction was measured in units of pressure (pounds per square inch (PSI). Root growth may become restricted at 290 PSI, and corn roots can have difficulty penetrating soils with a PSI rating greater than 400. Soil compaction levels were measured five times at soil depths of between one to six inches, seven, and eleven inches with a penetrometer. Soils were 36%, 53%, and 73% less compacted at the three sampling depths, respectively, under strip-tillage management compared to conventional-tillage (Figures 2 and 3, download the PDF to view illustrations).

Soils that were managed under strip-tillage had better water percolation rates compared to soils that were managed under conventional-tillage. Macropores are small, open channels in the soil created by earthworm activity, soil cracking, and old root growth. Tillage destroys macropores by mixing or disturbing the upper soil profile. The preservation of root channels, soils pores, and other holes in the soil profile leads to better water infiltration (Table 2). As water percolation improves, surface runoff decreases, leading to gains in irrigation and rainfall water management and efficiency. Improvements in water management can help to maintain the optimum soil moisture for growth, reproductive development and yield potential.

The average time for one inch of water to infiltrate a dry soil managed by strip-tillage was 1.1 minutes compared to 3.5 minutes for a soil managed under conventional tillage (Figure 4). A similar trend was observed for water infiltration into a soil at field capacity (Figure 5).

Plant Health
Corn plants that were managed under strip-tillage had more roots and rooted to greater depths compared to plants that were grown in soils managed under conventional-tillage. Improved soil quality allows for better root growth. A large root system results in greater root-soil contact for improved water and nutrient absorption. This is especially true for immobile nutrients such as phosphorus and potassium. Furthermore, a large and deep root system may be the mechanism by which corn plants grown in strip-tillage environments have greater rooting depths compared to plants grown under conventional tillage (Figure 6). Large root systems are able to acquire nutrients and water while supporting above-ground growth. The extended drought which lasted from 1999 through 2006, had extremely limited moisture during 2002 and 2003 growing seasons. Corn plants that were grown in soils managed with strip-tillage practices produced between 10,000 and 28,000 total linear inches of roots per plant compared to 3,200 and 10,000 total linear inches in conventional tillage, in 2002 and 2003, respectively (Figure 7).

Corn plants that were managed under strip-tillage along with a small amount of starter fertilizer and deep placement of phosphorus (P) with a strip-tillage mole knife had greater yields than corn plants that were grown under conventional-tillage with broadcast fertilizer.

Starter fertilizers can help to mitigate the conditions of reduced growth rates, lack of nutrient mobility, and decreased nutrient mineralization that may occur in cool, wet soils. Starter fertilizer, especially in cool soils, tends to support early-season growth and vigor in corn. The fertilizer meets early demands of the seedling until the root system develops, and its placement is important to avoid injury to germinating seedlings.

Application below the soil places P in the soil volume where it can be easily accessed by corn roots (Figure 8). Furthermore, concentrated zones of P can decrease P fixation, making it more readily available for plant uptake. It is estimated that approximately 50% of yield gains observed with the adoption of strip-tillage can be attributed to the efficient banded placement of fertilizer. The other 50% of yield gain can be attributed to overall improved soil health and water holding capacity.

Strip-tillage Yield Summary

The objective of this study was to determine whether strip- tillage could equal or improve upon conventional-tillage yields. Dry land corn growers often employ a no-tillage system to maximize soil moisture storage for corn growth and minimize moisture loss as an effect of tillage. Corn under irrigation is typically a good producer of grain yield and residue. Strip-tillage practices are an option to take advantage of minimum tillage practices while planting corn in heavy residue conditions. Several advantages to strip-tillage compared with conventional-tillage were observed including fewer tillage passes, improved soil quality characteristics, and reduced operator and equipment time. Yield increases were also observed when fertilizer was applied below the plant and under the planted row. Later measurements demonstrated that corn roots under strip-tillage grow faster and deeper, compared to roots searching for nutrients placed adjacent but not in the row. Growing seasons varied from 2001 to 2006 with continued drought and high summer temperatures. Hail damage prior to pollination in 2004 reduced leaf area and decreased yields. Lack of nitrogen and Goss’s wilt disease pressure during 2006 and 2007, respectively, and compromised data and results are not included for those years.

Corn yields showed a positive response to strip-tillage and were greater than conventional-tilled plots in all years except 2006 when nitrogen was limited to 0.50 lb/bushel of grain and less available under strip-tillage due to organic matter decomposition. Strip-tillage yields were measured and found to often surpass conventional-tillage yields. Additional benefits of strip-tillage systems included improved soil quality and plant health, reduced soil erosion, and reduced operator and equipment costs.

These data are an average of limited water yields over locations (IRF, KSU-Colby, KS and Mark Myers, Colby, KS). Data were averaged across the short- and long-season hybrids when available. Limited irrigation level was designed to supply approximately 80 percent of the consumptive water need of a full-watered corn crop, placing the corn under drought stress, but allowed corn production even under drought and heat environments. While yields varied across years and locations, generally strip-tillage management had greater yields compared with conventional-tillage management. The increased yield under strip tillage was likely attributed to improvements in soil quality, deeper rooting, improving plant health and increasing water infiltration rates. Strip-tillage management allowed more water storage for corn growth under arid conditions.

Irrigation was reduced to 66% of consumptive use at the IRF during test years 2003 through 2008. A portion of these trials incorporated a short and long-season hybrid component, thus the yield data was averaged across hybrids when available. Corn yields were decreased when irrigation was limited to only 66% compared to fully irrigated practices at the IRF. The soil quality, plant health and soil water storage advantages of strip-tillage were significant as heat and drought deteriorated growing conditions compared to conventional-tillage plots. Yields decreased as irrigation levels dropped, and strip-tillage produced more bushels of corn per inch of water compared to conventional-tillage management.

[1] Doesken, N.J. 2007. Colorado weather and climate update. Colorado State University (presentation).
[2] U.S. Climate Data. 2011. Climate-Salina­Kansas.www.usclimatedata.com (verified 4/8/2011).
[3] Prasanna, H.G. et. al. 2008. Surface energy balance based evapotranspiration mapping in the Texas High Plains. Sensors, 8:5186-5201.
[4] Mcguire, V.L. 2007. Ground water depletion in the High Plains Aquifer. USGS Fact Sheet 2007-3029.

We would like to thank all those whose contributions to this research has made this research summary possible. Employees at the IRF, Case New Holland, Orthman Manufacturing, Inc., and Monsanto have been especially involved in this research and their time and efforts are greatly appreciated.

Jeff Tichota Phone: 1-303-324-4941 Email: jeffrey.m.tichota@monsanto.com
Mike Petersen Phone: 1-308-325-3474 Email: mpetersen@orthman.com

Individual results may vary, and performance may vary from location to location and from year to year. This result may not be
an indicator of results you may obtain as local growing, soil and weather conditions may vary. Growers should evaluate data from
multiple locations and years whenever possible.
Technology Development by Monsanto and Design is a registered trademark of Monsanto Technology LLC. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.
2011 Monsanto Company. SEK4.8.2011.

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2011 Research sites

15 U.S. sites conducting precision tillage research

Precision tillage is all about the entire GROUP of products, methods, and ideas that provide the best results when used together – and those results come from carefully analyzing how each part of the equation changes the sum.
Click here to view an interactive map of the research locations.

Recent information in “Better Crops with Plant Food” highlights K banding has future implications

Early March Issue 2011 Involves Strip-Tilling

Mike Petersen our Agronomist has written part in summary and poses some questions to you growers how we may want to look at banding and precision placement of P & K fertilizer products. He outlines in brief what Murrell and Vyn wrote in the latest issue of the magazine Better Crops with Plant Food. It fits what we promote at Orthman as to why precision is very important to farmers from the western Corn Belt to New York

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Nebraska farmer knows EXACTLY how much fuel he’s saving.

Story courtesy No-TillFarmer.com, March 2011

Written by Dan Zinkand, thanks to No-Till Farmer.

March 18, 2011

Paxton, Nebraska, strip-tiller Jon Holzfaster says his fuel supplier hates this story, but it’s true.

“After I converted the whole farm to strip-till 11 years ago, my fuel supplier called and said he’d like our business back,” Holzfaster recalls. “I told him that he still had all of our business. We just weren’t going through all the fuel that we had with conventional tillage.

We probably save 3 or more gallons of fuel per acre and 500 to 700 man-hours by strip-tilling compared to conventional tillage.”

Two-Part Approach

Since he’s started strip-tilling in southwest Nebraska, Holzfaster has learned it not only saves fuel and time, but also wear and tear on machinery.

The system reduces erosion and conserves moisture.

With RTK, Holzfaster employs two strategies for strip-tilling, which allows him to use three tractors instead of four.

He has two 325-horsepower Case IH Steigers and a Caterpillar MT 765. In late March, Holzfaster strip-tills the fields and applies liquid fertilizer with two 12-row Orthman 1tRIPrs and a 12-row Krause Gladiator strip-till rig. He strip-tills about half his corn acres – almost all of it corn-on-corn.

Starting in late April, Holzfaster hooks up a 12-row John Deere planter behind each of the two Orthman 1tRIPrs . He strip-tills and plants corn in one pass, pulling each of these rigs with a Steiger. The Cat MT 765 pulls a 24-row John Deere planter. All of his corn and soybeans are planted on 30-inch rows.

“When we strip-till early in the spring, we put down 80 to 160 pounds of nitrogen, about 10 inches deep,” Holzfaster says. “Then, when we plant corn in the strip-tilled field, the starter will be 5 to 20 pounds of nitrogen per acre, along with 5 to 20 pounds each of phosphate and potash.
Prior to tassle, he “fertigates” through the pivot irrigation system with 30-60 pounds of nitrogen per acre.

“When we ‘one-trip’ – strip-till and plant the field in the same pass – the starter fertilizer is 50 pounds of nitrogen per acre, 50 pounds of phosphate and 15 pounds of potash,” Holzfaster says. “We place this 3 to 6 inches below the seed. Later in the season, we fertigate with 100 to 150 pounds of nitrogen per acre.”

Overall, Holzfaster say he’s pleased with strip-till, but says it requires different management.

“Fewer field passes mean less opportunity to apply fertilizer, and pivot-track maintenance can get out of hand if it’s not attended to.”

Trying Something New

In the spring of 2010, Holzfaster demoed a Krause Gladiator strip-till rig.

“It was something new out there on the market,” he says. “The Gladiator has a little bit of a different concept than the 1tRIPr because it has chains on the rolling baskets instead of rigid bars. We liked that.

“I’m a big believer in Orthman, though, and I’m not disappointed in the 1tRIPr. They pioneered the design for one-pass planting.”

He’s also making a switch this spring from anhydrous ammonia to liquid nitrogen.

“With precision ag, I recognize the value of anhydrous,” Holzfaster says. “But it’s a little more of a challenge to use anhydrous. It’s easier to meter and to monitor liquid fertilizer than with anhydrous. I’m not afraid of anhydrous. We’ve got a good crew of employees and they can handle it safely.

“But you can run liquid fertilizer through your Redball system, which you can’t do with anhydrous.”

Conserving Soil Moisture

About 70% of the land Holzfaster farms is irrigated, and the rest is dryland. Of the irrigated cropland, about 90% is in continuous corn and about 10% is in soybeans. The dryland acres are in a 3-year rotation, divided equally between winter wheat, corn and fallow.

The climate in southwest Nebraska allows Holzfaster to grow continuous corn with less concern about insect pressure building up. The severity of the winter breaks most insect cycles that persist in milder climates.

“On our dryland corn, we’ll strip-till corn into last year’s wheat stubble. We use soybeans in the rotation in corn to clean up weeds or insect problems,” he says.

Given the climate, saving moisture is important for Holzfaster. Strip-tilling and the residue of continuous corn create a friendly environment for capturing water in the fields in the fall and the winter.

“As an irrigator, I want to save moisture,” he says. “With the residue in the fields and by only tilling part of the field, strip-till conserves moisture.”

“If you have a soil profile full of water late in the season, you don’t have to spoon-feed irrigated water to the crop. That’s where the true savings is for the irrigated farmer in our region – with strip-till.”

Time Savings Key

Fewer trips through the field with strip-till also mean that Holzfaster and his workers can concentrate on other things in the spring and summer.

“We focus on servicing the center pivots, or we’ve got time to truck corn if we need to, instead of discing, chisel plowing and field cultivating,” he says. “It makes the springtime less hectic.

“I love doing tillage. It’s in the farmer’s genetics. But with all the benefits of strip-till, doing conventional tillage would be more for recreation. With strip-till, I’m aggressively tilling the strip, but not the whole field.”

That said, Holzfaster says that strip-tilling his fields has reduced soil erosion and weed pressure.

“With a lot of residue on the surface, we’ve seen a lot of erosion-control benefits,” he says.

“We strip-till at 40- to 45-degree angle to the previous year’s row of corn. That tends to exaggerate the erosion protection. The cornstalks in last year’s rows serves as a dam. It seems to work for us.

“Some folks might strip-till and plant between the old rows. By strip-tilling and planting at a 40- to 45-degree angle, we’re giving up some of the benefits of planting into that sweet spot. There are different soil types and topographies and this seems to work for us.”

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