When the Conservation Security Program (CSP) comes to Fred Abels' watershed in Holland, IA, he wants to be ready to cash in on the funds available for being a good steward. “If you want to qualify, you can't apply anhydrous in the fall,” says the central Iowa farmer.

To be a CSP player, Abels knew he had to efficiently combine tillage and fertilizer application all in the spring. His solution was to build a six-row strip-till implement equipped to handle spring fertilizer application.

“I had a farmer-friend of mine weld together the strip-tiller frame from an old Cyclo planter, and I did the rest,” he says. He paid $800 for the frame and $1,000 for the welding. He bought the front 5 x 7-in. toolbar for $125.

In the front, he mounted three used Kinze planter fertilizer hoppers that hold 550 lbs. each. He then built an extension on the top of each to hold an additional 400 lbs. for a total of 900 lbs. each. Cost ran $400 for each, and that also included a set of Yetter openers.

Behind those hoppers, he added three used John Deere boxes with extensions that he found through the local newspaper. Each now holds 900 lbs. and is connected with a cross auger at the top. Front and rear hoppers hold the same fertilizer mix: 10-70-90. Cost for these hoppers and the crossfill auger ran $500. “I was lucky to find the boxes so cheap,” he says.

HE ALSO HAD an old Case IH dry fertilizer transmission that he used on the strip-tiller.

He mounted three rows of coulters on the rear of the 30-in.-row unit. The first row of coulters are Yetters and positioned 4 in. off center. The second row of coulters run directly on top of the row. And the third row of coulters run 4 in. off to the other side of the row. The back set has the anhydrous shanks, too, which are attached to a used anhydrous bar including knives he bought from the local co-op for $1,000. The dry fertilizer hoppers drop fertilizer 4 in. off to the side.

“I've got just shy of $6,000 into it,” says Abels. “If I'd have bought this new, who knows what it would have cost me. Since the local elevator charges $13/acre to do strip-tilling, I'll have this paid for in just a couple of years.”

Fortunately, Abels was awarded a $5,000 grant from Iowa State University's (ISU) On-Farm Research and Demonstration Program to offset his building costs. He also got design advice from Mark Hanna, ISU Extension ag engineer.

Last year was the maiden run for the machine and he says: “I wasn't sure how it would all blend together, but I'm very pleased. I even exhibited it at the Midwest Strip-Tillage Conference at Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo.”

This year he plans to make all the metering augers the same, and not a mix of Kinze and John Deere. Plus, he wants to add a shift monitor on the dry fertilizer metering augers to make sure they're turning. He'll also move a pressure gauge for the anhydrous applicator closer to the tractor and use two crossfill augers, instead of one, to fill both rows of the fertilizer boxes.