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Fall strip till photo: Adam Nechanicky, Buckingham, Iowa, prefers fall strip-till because it’s one less thing to do in the spring. Plus, that way he does not have to worry about waiting in spring between anhydrous application and planting. Spring strip-till photo: Jim Sladek, Iowa City, Iowa, applies N, P, K, and S blended throughout the strip as he spring strip-tills ahead of the planters. He uses two 24-row strip-till machines, which are designed especially for spring conditions, to outpace three 24-row Deere planters. It’s important to allow the strips to “grey off” for several hours before planting to prevent sidewall compaction. “From our standpoint, spring strip-till is the best agronomic practice,” he says.
“For us in the heavy gumbo, we prefer a shank-type strip-till bar in the fall, which gives our ground time to mellow out and creates a nearly perfect seedbed come spring,” says Brad Meister, Bourbon, Ind. “I would never run a shank-type machine in the spring on my ground, you run the risk of smearing the sidewalls and drying the ground out too much. For us, the planting window is too narrow in the spring to do both. If it’s fit to make strips, it’s fit to plant,” Meister says.
Adam Nechanicky, Buckingham, Iowa, likes the peace of mind of having the trips over with and done. Plus, “My fall strips were far nicer than my spring strips,” he says. “I think a lot of it had to do with timing. I like to get them done in the fall; I’m concerned about getting strips and planting done in a timely manner. And, I use anhydrous ammonia, so I need a waiting period before planting (they say).”
“So true (waiting after the ammonia),” says University of Minnesota Extension Regional Educator Jodi DeJong-Hughes, who waited five days this spring before planting after applying her anhydrous ammonia to spring-built strips.”
Northern Iowa farmer John Schwarckis another fan of fall strip-till. “Because we have cold, wet springs 70% of the time, I feel it necessary to strip in the fall, then go over the strip lightly in the spring again to dry it out so we can plant several days earlier compared to waiting for a fall shank strip to dry enough to plant.
“Freshened fall strips work up much nicer than untouched ground in the spring if the ground is damp. My Pluribus really shone this spring doing exactly that. My corn looks as good or better than any I've seen in the area. This is continuous corn, too. I should give some of the credit to my GFX row cleaners and more so to RFX hydraulic down-force. I probably have the most even emergence and stand I've ever had, and it was a cold, wet spring, too,” Schwarck says. “The biggest advantage of coulter rigs (used for spring strips) is their flexibility.”
Patrick Gerke, Pilot Grove, Mo., prefers fall strip-till “if the weather cooperates. This year, I did all of mine in the spring, though, and it’s worked out OK so far.
“I use an anhydrous shank-type machine either spring or fall. That’s probably part of the reason I prefer fall if the weather cooperates. The overwintering of the fall strip helps to break down any clods, and the strip plants great in the spring then. The only problem I’ve had using it in the spring is when it’s slightly wet when stripping, the clods will sometimes dry out really fast, and the only option for planting is to set the row cleaners low enough to move the clods out of the way. That wasn’t a problem this spring, as conditions were near perfect and I had rain between stripping and planting to settle the strips,” Gerke says.
Fall strips are the first choice for Iowa State University Extension Agronomist Al-Kaisi. “The soil moisture in the fall generally makes better strips; it has fewer large clods and is better drained. This means a more consistent seedbed,” he says.
“Iowa does not have a good spring window for field work, especially between planting and tillage. Very wet spring soil creates a lot of problems, including soil compaction in the strip zone and between rows, which can restrict root growth and ultimately reduce yield.”
Soil drainage is the main consideration for choosing fall or spring strip-tillage, Al-Kaisi says. “Well-drained soil may be more suited to spring strip-till than poorly drained soil.”