The North Dakota State University (NDSU) Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Department, in cooperation with the Lake Agassiz Resource Conservation and Development office in Fargo, is planning a strip-tillage equipment demonstration during the Big Iron Show in West Fargo on Sept. 10. The demonstration is a part of the annual NDSU Extension Service educational program at the Big Iron Farm Show.

Strip-tillage is a field system that combines no tillage and full tillage to produce row crops. Narrow strips that are 6-12 in. wide are tilled in crop stubble, with the area between the rows left undisturbed. Often, fertilizer is injected into the tilled area during the strip-tilling operation. The tilled strips correspond to planter row widths of the next crop and seeds are planted directly into the tilled strips. Strip-tilling normally is done in the fall after harvest, but it also can be done in the spring before planting.

During the demonstration at the Big Iron Show, equipment manufacturers will be provided an opportunity to operate their strip-till machines on wheat stubble at the fairgrounds. Each manufacturer also will have the opportunity to speak to the audience to share information about his or her equipment.

A short introductory program at the beginning of the demonstration will include John Nowatzki, NDSU Extension Service agricultural machine systems specialist, discussing general equipment requirements and Dwight Aakre, NDSU farm management specialist, talking about the economics of incorporating strip-tillage into a farm management system. The demonstration is free and open to the public.

Strip-till demonstration videos and Internet links to strip-till equipment manufacturers are available. Read the NDSU Extension publication, “Strip Till for Field Crop Production Equipment-Production-Economics” (AE-1370).

Several equipment manufacturers market strip-till machines, but most have similar features, such as coulter blades, row cleaners, tillage shanks, berm-building discs and packing wheels or conditioning baskets.

The coulter blade cuts through the soil and residue in front of the tillage shank. Coulters need to be spring-mounted to allow movement over stones. Some manufacturers use fluted coulters designed with depth-control features. Residue managers function to clear crop residue away from the tilled strip. Various manufacturers use unique designs to clean the area. The row cleaners usually are mounted a few inches in front of the coulter blade to move the crop residue, which allows the coulter to penetrate the soil. Some manufacturers mount the row cleaners behind the coulter and just in front of the tillage shank.

The tillage shank penetrates and loosens the soil and can be designed with a fertilizer injection tube so gaseous, liquid or dry granular fertilizers can be applied with the strip-tillage operation.

Tillage depth is dependent on the type of soil and conditions and the specific crop that will be planted. Berm-building discs are mounted on each side of the tillage shank and 6-8 inches behind the shank. The discs can be mounted to mound the strip. This promotes moisture runoff and facilitates soil drying in the spring or creates a slight depression in the soil to catch snow and rain to increase soil moisture for next year’s crop.

A conditioning basket is mounted behind each shank to break soil clods and smooth the soil. Some manufacturers use rubber wheels instead of packing wheels, but some way of smoothing the soil and breaking lumps is important on strip-till equipment. All the components of a strip-till machine usually are mounted on a tool bar.

The power requirement for strip-till equipment varies depending on the equipment design, number of row units, components used, soil properties, shank depth, field conditions and operator adjustments. The power requirement listed in the equipment specifications by several strip-till equipment manufacturers ranges from 12 to 30 hp per row unit. However, since only about one-third of the field surface is tilled with strip-till equipment, the energy requirement is less than with conventional tillage systems.

“A primary concern of strip tilling is to precisely plant into the strips the following spring,” Nowatzki says. “Strip-tillage machines can be equipped with markers to facilitate accurate spacing of rows on each round in the field. However, using precise GPS guidance likely will result in more consistent planting in the rows. The GPS accuracy must be within the tolerances of the strip-tilled width, which is easily achievable with real-time kinematic differential correction, but more difficult with less-precise GPS differential correction services.”