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, StripTillFarmer.com 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!
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:
- From the 2014 National Strip Till Conference: University of Minnesota educator Jodi DeJong-Hughes discusses 5 considerations for new strip tillers here.
- Some “oldie but goodie” discussions from way back in 2008, Brian and Darren Hefty with AG-PHD talk about strip-till seedbed conditions here, and the importance of strip-tillage fertilizer placement here.
- The Hefty brothers cover some more details and their strip-till experience here, offer some answers to frequent strip till questions here, and talk about splitting rows here. They offer many more strip-till related videos as well, have a look at their YouTube channel and scroll through the videos.
- Iowa State University agronomist Joel DeJong discusses the conservation benefits of strip till here. Our friend Wim is having great success with a similar method in Europe with his injector system, the MaxPlacer.
- No-Till Farmer magazine published lists of important strip-tillage advice here and here.
As always, we’d love to hear your specific questions too! Email randy.haarberg at orthman dot com.
As fall tillage gets geared up, we want your pictures! I was asked what a grower should look for, so developed this list:
- Run your 1tRIPr at the same field speed that you will be using for finishing the field.
- Take a tile shovel or something similar, push straight down and pull out soil so you have a side view. Do this at 5 or 6 widths so you have cleaned a zone out wider than you have shattered with the 1tRIPr shank.
- Clean out the soil by hand so you have a good side view, and smooth any shovel marks
- Make sure you have gone deep enough to get to the bottom of your shank zone.
Some things to evaluate from the pit:
- Look for a nice upside-down umbrella shape that is shattered
- This shattered area should not have smeared sidewalls. Many other points leave a V shape with hard sidewalls that crop roots will not grow through; the 1tRIPr shank and point are made to leave a U shape without hard sidewalls.
- You should be able to see just by looking that you have increased pore size. This is a key element for increasing infiltration rates.
- You want to see increased pore size, but NOT any soil voids. Many times, minor adjustments with the wavy coulters will correct soil voids. Large soil voids can cause soil to dry out or to wash away, depending on weather conditions. I have seen berms that have looked good from above ground but below have large enough voids I can put my arm in!
- Check how wide your wavy coulters are in comparison to root shatter zone. If the wavy coulters are wider than the shatter zone, you reduce the quality of job they will do for you.
Below is a photo taken by Horizon Equipment in western Iowa in the spring of 2014. In the photo you can see shatter zone, soil structure change and proper 1tRIPr use. Click the image to enlarge.
I would like to challenge others to dig and take photos of your mini soil pits! Farm name is optional but please include time of year, general location, type of fertilizer used, crop that you are going to plant, and other information that might be important and email to randyhaarberg at orthman dot com. Thanks again to Horizon Equipment for the photo above!
Whether your strips are laid in the spring or the fall, the first step to a bin-busting yield is to provide an ideal seedbed.The seedbed is where everything starts!
First, make sure that you’re tilling wide enough that your planter can access that smooth, mellow zone. When finished, you want a slight berm to plant on (not too much, though, or you can have trouble keeping the planter aligned.) Some fall strip tillers advise they seek a larger berm to allow it to ‘settle’ over the winter. Be careful – that could indicate that you have voids below the soil surface, and it will be hard to get even, consistent seed-to-soil contact if that is the case. A properly-prepared strip really won’t settle much.
A precision strip-till seedbed will warm faster and deeper, which helps promote root growth in the spring. By the same token, it will delay the germination of weeds and other ‘unwanteds’ due to the cooler soil and seeds not buried in the soil. Click the images to enlarge.
It will also drastically reduce wind erosion and water erosion in the field, by leaving standing residue and improving water infiltration – rather than running off, water is absorbed into the strips where it can be stored and used. It also increases organic matter and microbial activity in the soil, helps with residue management, speeds up root growth, reduces compaction (soil density), and reduces input costs. Click the image to enlarge.
Check back for more benefits to precision strip tillage – next week, we will discuss precision nutrient placement! Remember, we welcome your questions and photos – just email them to randyhaarberg at orthman dot com.
With many 1tRIPr precision strip till machines starting to run for fall application, it is time to make sure you are getting the most out of your farming operation.
Here at Orthman, we stress 3 benefits that your strip-till pass need to provide:
- Ideal Seedbed Preparation
- Precision Nutrient Placement
- Optimal Root-zone Conditioning
Check back here over the next few days as I detail each of these strip-till principles.
In the mean time – send us your strip till photos and questions! I’d be happy to answer any questions you have about specific details or strip till systems in general… email randyhaarberg at orthman.com
By RANDY HAARBERG, Precision Tillage Systems Agronomist, Orthman Manufacturing
Download a PDF copy of this file here.
Growers around the world are recognizing the value of true stewardship and conservation tillage methods. Many have begun to reassess their approach to farming and acknowledge that sustainability of the land will be a significant factor for agriculture in the future.
In the next 10 years, the world’s population will reach eight billion, and is expected to reach nine billion by 2050. Conservative estimates forecast growth in global food demand of at least 50 percent in the same period, even as global food production faces extraordinary challenges from rising temperatures, more severe floods and droughts and new pests and plant diseases. Experts conclude we must increase food production through higher plant productivity because we cannot count on adding more arable land.1
One of the ways growing numbers of farmers around the world are helping ensure the sustainability of their land for future generations is through conservation tillage practices such as no-till and strip-till. Conservation tillage leaves a large percentage of crop residue on the soil surface during the soil erosion periods that occur pre-plant, at emergence and after harvest. This slows wind and water movement, which reduces soil erosion and helps retain moisture within the soil. No-till techniques seek to retain 100 percent of the ground cover by planting seeds into a narrow strip cut by a coulter wheel; strip-till techniques intensively till the soil in narrow rows to prepare a seedbed, but leave the soil in between the rows undisturbed.
Both techniques benefit farmers by reducing the number of times a farmer needs to cross the field, thereby saving fuel and labor and reducing the compaction of the soil. Although no-till techniques can still require multiple passes, advances in strip-till equipment have reduced the number of trips across the field to as few as one, in which each strip is tilled, cultivated and fertilized immediately before seeds are placed by an integrated planting system.
Although there may be a small increase in erosion risk, one of the benefits of strip-till versus no-till is improved production. Cool, moist soil conditions are exacerbated by no-till techniques and can delay crop germination in the spring. Strip-tillage removes residue in the seed row, uncovering dark earth to absorb the sun’s energy and encourage much more rapid warming of the soil and therefore earlier and more robust germination.2
However, soil warmth is only one of a combination of factors important in improving yield that are addressed by modern strip-till equipment. Breaking up the soil in tilled rows allows an aerobic condition and creates an ideal seedbed, while eliminating compaction in the root zone improves conditions for early root development and creates an ideal environment throughout the growing season. Dry, liquid or NH3 fertilizer can be simultaneously applied only in these rows where the seed is being planted and at precisely determined depths to improve proximity of the fertilizer to the roots.
This precision in fertilizer placement creates new fertilizer options for producers that can have a positive effect on crop yield. According to AgProfessional.com, research in Kansas showed that when utilizing strip-till practices, producers can more effectively place nutrients directly below the seedbed to efficiently supply some of the crop’s nutrient requirements, particularly nutrients with limited mobility such as phosphorus and potassium where precise placement can make nutrients more available to seeds.3
The research showed that producers using strip-tillage significantly increased corn yields compared to no-till at several locations. For example, the average corn yield increase of strip-till over no-till was 28 bushels per acre in Manhattan, Kan., in 2003. AgProfessional.com also cited work done by the Irrigation Research Foundation (IRF) in eastern Colorado from years comparing strip-tillage to conventional tillage:
“This work has shown a four-year average corn yield increase of 16 bushels per acre in striptillage compared to conventional tillage, with a range of increase from 11 to 24 bushels. Strip-till also produced deeper and more abundant roots to explore greater volumes of soil for water and nutrients. For example, 90 days after emergence (2002) total corn root length with strip-till was about three times that of conventional tillage and rooting depth was 12 inches greater. Water infiltration was also significantly increased in strip-till.”4
SOIL CONSERVATION CONSIDERATIONS
In an era of growing climate uncertainty, one thing most experts agree on is that water will take on increasing importance to future farmers. By leaving residue intact, both no-till and strip-till conserve considerably more moisture in the soil than conventional tillage systems. The crop residue absorbs the impact energy of raindrops and helps limit dispersal and crusting by impeding overland water flow and providing more time for the runoff to infiltrate through soil pores.
While strip-tilling may leave fields open to somewhat more soil erosion than no-till techniques, both are a dramatic improvement over conventional tillage. Research done by the University of Wisconsin Lancaster Agricultural Research Station involved placing passive runoff collectors in a field with both chiseled and strip-tillage on an 8 percent slope. The measured soil loss in a year that experienced substantial rainfall during the early part of the growing season prior to crop canopy closure was 4.67 tons of soil per acre in chisel, but only .28 tons of soil per acre in strip-tillage.5
MOVING TOWARD AGRICULTURAL SUSTAINABILITY
As agricultural growing conditions change around the world, producers will have to embrace new technologies to keep pace with increasing demand. Agronomists are already working with plant biologists as well as agricultural equipment engineers to develop new and more efficient ways to produce crops from the same amount of tillable land while maintaining
the quality of the soil. Strip-till is the innovation that this generation of progressive farmers brought to the table. We’re eager to see what comes next.
1. Haga M., “Feeding a Growing World — Despite Climate Change,” Crop Trust
2. Godsey, C., Kochenower, R., Taylor, R., “Strip-till Considerations in Oklahoma,” Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Service, PSS-2134
3. “Strip tillage and fertilization for corn,” AgProfessional.com
5. Wolkowski, R., Cox, T. and Leverish, R., “Strip-tillage: a conservation option for Wisconsin farmers,” University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension (A3883)
ABOUT RANDY HAARBERG
Originally from Wauneta, Neb., Randy grew up on a farm and holds an agri-business degree from Chadron State College. He spent 26 years as an independent agronomist focused on the
high-scale producers in the high plains of northeast Colorado before joining Orthman. Haarberg focuses on agronomic education and assists the Orthman team, dealers and growers worldwide with crop production systems recommendations.
Courtesy the University of Wisconsin and U of W Extension, written by Richard Wolkowski, Thomas Cox, and James Leverich. Certainly worth the read, here is a great look at No-Till vs Strip-Till vs Conventional-Till in the cold, dark soils of Wisconsin. Click to read the article: Strip Tillage: A conservation option for Wisconsin farmers
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).
SUSTAINABLE CORN PRODUCTION IN INTENSIVELY MANAGED SYSTEMS: 2013 FINAL REPORT
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:
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.
A New Look at How Strip-Tillage Gives an Advantage Due to Larger Root Length to Soil Volume – This Affects Plants to Tolerate Stress Betterby Michael Petersen, Lead Agronomist
For 8 years now we at Orthman have been honing our skills to better understand what happens with strip-tillage and corn rooting. How is this all happening so corn plants can tolerate heat and drought stress better?
It is our agronomic opinion that we are first accomplishing with the Strip-till implement a “better seedbed” to establish an environment where the germinating plant can extend a longer and more profuse seedling root. We have seen this in corn, cotton, grain sorghum and soybeans with strip-till compared to conventional tillage and direct seeding. Our observations have been at 15 days after emergence (DAE) and 25 DAE with the monocots (corn and grain sorghum), and 25DAE with the dicots (soybeans and cotton).
What are those factors? First, we are seeing warmer soils in the upper 4 inches (10cm) of the soil profile in the strip-till zone– from 1 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer. With cotton, grain sorghum and soybeans (which all germinate closer to 58 – 60° F), those few degrees of temperature are vital to good germination and stand establishment. I’m not saying it is not important for corn, but corn does tolerate a few degrees cooler. A critical point – the soil density for the seedling root in the zone that is strip-tilled is very conducive to root elongation and early lateral root development off the seedling root with Strip-Till. All of this early root development feeds the plant, gets the plant off on the right foot so to speak when the inevitable chill of May comes and then heat of the summer. We all know the wind will blow hard at some point in the first 25-30 days of growth after emergence. Having a well established root system will not only anchor the plant but help it sustain life.
Secondly, as farmers are placing nutrients with more precision these days (which we highly recommend with the Orthman 1tRIPr) the roots are in direct contact with the nutrient source and will continue to thrive going into the critical stages of the life cycle. It is well known that crop roots are the dominant site (>98%) where nutrients are absorbed and taken into the plant for photosynthesis and carbohydrate storage – yield. This second pillar, “Precision placement of fertility” is talked about often here at Orthman as being vital to higher sustained yields. For instance in corn; near the time of 45 DAE the corn genetic road map has determined the number of kernel rows around the cob. Having a rich environment of nutrients (whether organic or inorganic) around the roots can influence the switches to be turned on across the gene map to expand from 12 to 14 to 16 to 18 or even 20 rows. More availability to the nutrients and roots accessing those products invigorates the plant to establish a larger ear, offering that multiplier effect. Having a larger root length density (RLD) which we will expand upon here shortly in this article is critical for the grower to reach higher yield potentials.
The 3rd pillar of the Precision Tillage concept is having an optimal root zone to facilitate an environment for more water and nutrient uptake for the planted crop. This underground environment is unseen by most and really needs to be considered, whether you are a grower, fertilizer dealer, or even agronomist in the field. I have spent 40+ years digging to understand the “ways” of the soil system as a soil scientist and it is important that all understand this message. The physical distribution of roots in the soil profile is dominated and affected by several factors:
- Soil temperature
- Soil moisture
- Chemistry of the soil solution
- Soil density
- Crop root architecture [crop genetics]
Of those six, gravity, soil chemistry and the wet/dryness are not changeable without irrigation.
Soil temperature in the spring can be altered slightly as mentioned earlier.
Maintaining residues on the soil surface can help hold moisture, add to soil foodstuffs for microbes and critters in the soil as well as mycorrhizal fungi helping nearly all crops.
Soil density is something tillage can alter (either for good or it can be detrimental).
Crop rooting architecture is a given but can be facilitated to reach all of its potential with Strip-Tillage.
Let us consider the root-zone from a Strip-Tillage perspective: first, early soil warm-up. Getting that germination started with good seed-to-soil contact, warmer for the early root system, right in the presence of readily available nutrients – like feeding a toddler on into the teen years when food is inhaled and kids shoot up. Feed them properly and they perform whether kids or corn and soybeans. For instance, proper nutrition and a soil environment is conducive to root expansion without limitations. By the time it is 75 days old, a corn plant can have a root system over 750 feet in total length and longer – precise placement of nutrients with Strip-Till is a big part of that success. We have actually measured over 1,326 feet of total root length under one corn variety that was strip-tilled in Eastern Colorado studies. Growers across the United States can tell you that amount of roots will be way bigger than they can imagine in a strip-till system, especially when we consider that rootworm pressure, nematodes, root rots, compaction, early water logging, and cold soils all take away from a crops root proliferation.
That brings us to how much of a root system is important to making the plant a “big crop”, especially in a year when rainfall is considerably limited? So think on this; Root Length Density (RLD) is defined as root length per unit volume of soil [cm root/cm3 soil]. If RLD averages above 0.35cm/cm3 below the 80cm (36 inches) depth, the corn plant will be able to pump water from depth to the upper portion of the root system and sustain life much longer than plants with lower RLD. When we can help promote an even larger RLD for the entire rooting profile with Strip-Tillage (such as measured in Nebraska and Colorado in 2013 over 3.95 cm/cm3 at two different study sites!), the concept is onto something! Those same studies show a full-width tillage rooting system of just 2.35 cm/cm3. It is our goal with Precision Tillage and placement of fertilizer products to encourage plants of corn to grow deeper, expand into more segments of the soil profile so to absorb more water and nutrients which in turn leads to better yields and dry matter.
Other researchers have measured in natural rainfed agriculture root systems that had RLD’s of 0.7 to 1.25 cm/cm3.
Here in at Orthman we have seen the value of establishing a strong and dynamic root system making yield differences every year at the Orthman Research Center near Lexington, Nebraska. Getting you an ideal seedbed, placing fertility in the root pathway and making sure you have an optimal root zone is what strip-till growers benefit from. M
Do not hesitate to call or e-mail amy of us on the agronomy team . We want to be a resource for you, as strip-till is the fastest growing smart and sensible tillage method on the planet.
As an agronomic team we are wanting to share our focus for Strip-Tillage across North America and abroad. Catch up with us at the fall Farm Shows and Demos we are carrying out across the country. Creating the premium seedbed, offering you the grower the highest quality, precise placement of your pre-plant fertilizers and last, the optimum root zone for season long results in the soil. Check us out or call!
Mike Petersen, Agronomist for Orthman has written an article (click here to read) just this month that discusses the real stuff about soil pores in Strip Tillage compared to pores in No-Till that has been studied now for 4 years at the Orthman Research and Demonstration Farm near Lexington, Nebraska.
For many of you, and for us at Orthman Research Farm near Lexington, Nebraska we are planning the pre-plant tillage operations of the spring 2013 to be underway very soon. Tillage via strip-till methods will be our way, but how about many of you as you consider the fertilization part of the puzzle? How will that be happening for you?
Just recently we attended a good set of meetings in Reno at the Western Fertility Conference to hear recent findings and interact with industry and research scientists about some gains in fertility management for row crops, small grains, and orchard/fruit crops. The issues of ground water contamination, overland flow issues getting into the major water course of the Mississippi River and major river systems of the West are challenging the way we growers must consider our operations. You all have heard about well waters reaching levels of nitrate in the water that surpass drinking standards not only for human infants but even livestock due to leaching and other contamination processes. Being good stewards now is very wise, but we are coming against issues of the past 65+ years of intensive farming with nitrogen sources. After WWII and thoughts that “if a little is good than a whole bunch is that much more better.” Yeah bad grammar but it was an addage that numerous growers thought and employed. Now we pay for it and have to be that much more on top of our game.
The good folks I met, listened too and spoke with in Reno, NV are saying there are Nitrogen products on the market that will give better and sustained release to the crops root system over a longer period of time and resist the change from first introduction into the soil profile to convert to Nitrate and leach away before the roots have a chance to access to it in the soil solution. Products such as ESN™ being a granular urea coated with micro thin polymer, yes it is a dry product. This method of release can aid in slowed access to the urea-N product so it does not leach away, gobbled by the microbes or become mineralized so quickly that the plant root starves for N when called for by the growing above ground plant.
ESN™ is an Agrium product which responds to soil temperature and soil water content. Another product out on the market is Nutrisphere-N™ by SFP that works a bit differently than ESN™ but offers another management alternative for growers on how N releases into the soil environment. For the strip-till grower these products offer advanced ways to accomplish higher management of your N-fertility and feed the plant incrementally. Agrotain™ by Koch Industries, then there is Instinct™ by Dow are other products out there that all should be aware of so N management is not a willy-nilly part of how we furnish the corn, wheat, grain sorghum, dry edibles, cotton, peanuts, etc what is needed. As we learn more about these products from trials in each of our regions or even on a neighbors ground – we can better feed the crops we grow with the Nitrogen.
It was in the conference that we learned that especially with veggie crops N is in big demand for a short period and timing is everything. Consider maize/corn, we know it has three major calls if you will when N is in demand. Dump a hugeload prior to planting like 300 pounds per acre 30-90 days ahead of planting, do you really think it is going to sit still and not move deep or get fixed in the organic colloids or onto the clay complex or move off the surface if surface applied? Here is when these slowed release agents/products come into play to offer new solutions to our old loss problem. A little further study can really help you gain when and which product can work in your soils environment whether you have dry, wet, cold or what ever conditions.
In the strip-till system where the soils off to either side of where we strip-till 10 inches deep can be 2 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit colder, more moist if not wet and cause issues of root N-uptake and maybe even yield reductions early because the availability is just not there. You pour on N via anhydrous ammonia and expect because it is cooler that it will be there when the roots get to it, wow that could be an issue. It is a cheaper form of lots of N but is it the right one when any of it volitalizes or gets converted too soon? Cavities in the soil, shanked in and you may see it escaping, warmer than 50 degrees, dry soils – all issues and 20+% is poof, gone and that price differential just evaporated. Placing a charge of 250-300lbs/acre and then a couple-three inches of rain and the stuff will move even in clay loam soils 10-25 inches deeper than where you placed it. In some environments folks, the roots may never reach that and it is lost to never be had. Yes the same can happen to high rates of N via liquid products.
This day and age we are called to be better managers and come out of the shell the old way Daddy did it and move to spending time to educate how we can do better and wiser. Allocate time to have products be within reach of the roots when the demand for N is there will take new skills when we place it with the strip-till tool that we make called the 1tRIPr or another tool is very important. We, Mark and I at Orthman Farms are using some of the above products and getting positive responses that these products yield good results in grain and healthier crops. Check back with us or go to your agronomist or fertilizer dealer and learn about these products.
In California the watchers and monitoring agencies are clamping down on how fertility is managed, in Delaware and Maryland the environmental agencies by law demand fine-toothed control of N-P fertilization. In segments of the Central and Eastern Corn Belt states fall applications of N products are restricted and certain watersheds are being monitored and evaluated to stating growers may only apply 70lbs/acre (as an example) of N for a 200 bushel/acre corn crop. That is quite restrictive – yes? Other environments we can still be applying high amounts of N but to what cost? As a soil scientist and agronomist for Orthman Manufacturing I am going the route of top flight management with better products that will feed the plant incrementally. It has paid off and we encourage the same with the checking into the use of these good products that I named as a few of them to start with.
We will one day maybe feeding the corn we plant only half of what we have conventionally tilled into the soils and still yield 300 bushel/acre corn regularly. It has been done in the past three years in the Western Corn Belt under intensively managed irrigated corn. Instead of 300-350lbs N/acre researchers applied 140-150lbs/acre. Consider the dollars savings alone folks.
All of us who grow crops to reac a production goal know it takes fertilizers, either commercial or with use of manures. We know our dollars stretch only so far and our water is stretching us to be better about how we grow crops. We encourage you to place those nutrients in the soil precisely, with the understanding how much will the plant need and when. Using the Strip-Tillage tools manufactured at Orthman is a great choice to put this all in motion. Please contact any of us on the Sales, Marketing and/or Agronomy Team here at Orthman.
In 2012 and now 2013… Retention and Best Use of Crop Residues Adds Important Soil Carbon
By Michael Petersen, Lead Agronomist for Orthman Manufacturing, Inc. January 2013
Many of us in the Conservation Tillage movement agree that as much of the past crop aftermath left on the soil surface as possible and not mixed in to the soil surface layer provides tremendous benefits both short term and long. All of us who advocate Strip-Tillage and Direct Seeding know that residues provide food for beneficial microbes, protozoa, earthworms, mites. We know that this carboniferous material improves water holding capacity and nutrient capacity – SOC (soil organic carbon) can hold up to more than 150X its weight in water. The exchange capacity to hold specific nutrients positive and negative charges is extremely high but material is mobile. SOC is vital to stabilizing soil aggregates and feeding mycorrhizal fungi which release a sticky polysaccharide compound called “glomalin” that glues soil aggregates together so they can resist raindrop impact and wind sorting. The SOC in the surface 1-3 inches resists soil crusting especially after hard rains and then baking sun.
Here in the States we have adopted better and wiser conservation measures to simplify and drastically reduce the types of pre-plant tillage which was inverting and burying prior year residues but exposing years and years of prior stored carbon and much of it was oxidizing away and above. Modelers and scientists have calculated that with practices such as Strip-Till and Direct Seeding growers can store tons of carbon in the surface 1 to 4 inches with the return and slow breakdown of crop aftermath. But what about all those roots, root exudates, lignin and cellulosic materials from 0 to 6 or 7 feet in places?
Here at Orthman Manufacturing, Inc we have observed rooting magnified SOC with the conservation tillage strategy of Strip-Tillage due to in part a quicker start in the spring to maximize the number of roots expressed below ground. We have followed that up with observed soil pits to measure corn roots in a continual strip-till program that promotes deeper expansion into the soil due to roots propensity to follow the cooler soil temperatures as the season heats deep into the soil profile. We also have gained information from studies accomplished at the University of Georgia (1999-2001) that corn is known to extend vertically at specific soil temperatures as well as its lateral root development. Gaining more root dimension in linear length we know that those of us who raise corn can accumulate more grams of dry matter below ground to depths mentioned above. That in turn adds soil carbon to the soil profile.
…SOC is vital to stabilizing soil aggregates and feeding mycorrhizal fungi….
We have measured in eastern Colorado in loam and silt loam textured very deep soils under corn; 38,100+ linear inches of corn roots with deeper rooted corn hybrids, other not quite as prolific rooted hybrids we have measured 9,500 to 20,000 linear inches. The estimate for the grams of carbon materials is far and above the grams of material remaining after the ear of corn is harvested. It is our contention as we have exposed nearly a quarter mile of roots under one corn plant that was planted into a strip-tilled environment and precision fertilized we are gaining loads more soil carbon material than what is possible with full width (inversion) tillage systems every year. To give you for example, when we first started the strip-till methodology at Lexington, Nebraska in 2007 our soil samples from the first four inches was 2.1 to 2.3%. This spring when we sampled again, in very near proximity we had 2.7-3.1% SOM. We do not graze the corn stalks with cattle which can reduce corn residues by 50% on the soil surface. We leave our standing stalks 13 to 20 inches tall and we do not shred come spring. It is our contention that the longer and taller stalks keep winter winds from blowing residues away and off into the adjoining fields or barrow ditches. We have estimated tonnage of corn residues after harvest of 5.5T/acre to 7.8T/acre and very little of it leaving the property. Maintaining this quantity of aftermath has its concerns but we have more water stored, more carbon returning into the surface, increased population of microbes, and we have old roots decomposing slowly to become humus – the treats for those burrowing insects and soil microbes.
In our long term studies at the Irrigation Research Foundation which lies just north of Yuma, Colorado, we observed from 2001 to 2008 a change in SOM from 1.51% to 2.66% in 7 years with strip-tillage. Now remember that is only being measured in the upper 10 cm (4 inches) of the soil profile. It is also important to note the elevation at Yuma is 4100+ ft compared to Lexington at approximately 2300 ft above sea level. As observed in the high plains of Colorado the residues are reduced by UV during the winter months due to the non-cloudy winter days and lack of snow cover. An accelerated oxidation of the carbon materials remaining is quite evident.
NEWS FROM DOWN UNDER…More Roots Gain SOC
Scientist Hulugalle in New South Wales, Australia has conducted some very sound measurements and reported this in Agriculture Today, April 2010 regarding what returns of carbon came from roots in two cropping systems. “We measured corn root growth in back-to-back corn and a cotton-corn rotation sown on one meter (~40inches) beds during the summers of 2007-08 and 2008-09”.
“Total carbon added from corn roots averaged 5.0T/ha/yr with cotton-corn and 9.3t/ha/year with back-to-back corn,” noted Dr. Hulugalle.
In other soil measurements Hulugalle determined that corn on corn accumulated 770 g C/m2/ yr or for those of us here in the States that is 1.7lbs of carbon per 10.7 square feet per year or 0.16lb C/sq.ft. per year. This was published in a Short Report on the Plant Root website 2010.
Much of the research and determined rates of carbon storage here in the U.S. has looked at the surface layers of the soil. Some limited research has gone into determining how much soil carbon is stored with switchgrass, a near-permanent crop and the rate is quite high. These studies are part of the biofuels industry look at how the cellulosic material can be beneficial to ethanol production and as an ecologically sound system.
RECENT EUROPEAN RESEARCH EFFORTS… More Roots = More Carbon Stored
Kätterer, T., (2011) writing in Agriculture Ecosystems and Environment observed in a review on the relative contribution of root versus shoot material to soil organic matter formation, that researcher Rasse et al. (2005) concluded that results from in situ experiments indicate that root contribution to soil organic C per unit C is, on average, 2.4 times higher than of shoots. Data ranged from a minimum of 1.5 to a maximum of 3.7, compiling results from maize, hairy vetch and alfalfa. However, in the review by Rasse et al. (2005), and studies by Barber (1979) and Plénet et al. (1993), it was assumed that the annual input of fresh root C through root exudation, turnover and cell sloughing into soil was equivalent to that of the ‘measurable root biomass’ (i.e. 100%). In the calculation by Bolinder et al. (2007), root exudation, turnover and cell sloughing was assumed to be 65% of the measurable root biomass. This is consistent with Swedish research results from a long-term (1979-88) project on agroecosystems, Ecology of arable land – the role of organisms in N cycling by Andrén et al. (1989).
The main hypothesis tested in Katterer’s research, that roots contribute relatively more to uncontrollable soil organic matter than aboveground residues, He concluded that there is strong evidence from his experiments that roots contribute more to relatively stable soil C pools than the same amount of shoot-derived plant material does.
Our work in South Central Nebraska and 16 other locations across the United States confirm that SOC is changing in the positive direction year after year with Strip-Tillage one of the best Conservation Tillage methods going. The information I shared with you provides more proof that we are helping your soil resource be sustainable, yielding well when moisture is coming from above, helps profits, reduces erosion concerns greatly with the use of Strip-Tillage.
We will be writing more and giving you more information as time marches on in 2013 as to the benefits of Strip-Tillage.
The holiday we all have a load of respect for, July 4th is upon us and the heat is putting corn, soybeans and cotton crops into some dire stress. It is time for rain, even the irrigators will heartily agree as we all watch the crops suffer and get set back. This should be the time when the crops are going into high nutrient demand with the way the crops genetics and physiology are progressing. So we ask the question, do you have a reasonable nutrient package of materials in the root zone between 7 to 30 inches? Nitrogen demands at this time should be 4.5 to 7lbs/acre/day. Now during stress times, corn is trying to maintain a water balance to cope with heat and desiccation. N uptake as well as P, K, S, Zn all will get shorted which affects growth, photosynthate production and sugars moving in the plants to get ready for flowering and later fruit production (seeds).
For those who have strip-tilled and left last year’s crop aftermath (residues) to shade the ground, limit soil surface water losses, and help cool the soil temperatures you folks have an upper hand. For the grower who still tills the entire surface before planting most likely lost 1 to 3 inches of available water to the tillage passes and evaporative losses. That moisture loss now is crucial. To give you natural rainfall (dryland) growers an idea – in the Western Corn Belt that is $12 up to $45 per inch applied per acre if irrigated. Another excellent reason why strip-tillage is a superb practice to use in what we do as farmers across the United States and elsewhere around the world.