Herschleb has been strip-tilling for eight years. He changed from chisel plowing to strip-till in a CCCS rotation.

He’s made significant changes – purchasing a special Red Ball machine to build strips in the fall. Previously, he tilled and planted in the spring in a single operation with a special planter, but changed that to a 12-row planter using GPS auto-steer to match his fall equipment.

“With fall strips we get a warmer and drier seedbed in the spring,” he says. “That adds early season vigor to our corn plants. Our yields have been going up every year, but it’s hard to quantify whether that’s tillage or just improvements in new hybrids.”

He applies no fertilizer in the fall, and applies N with the planter at a half rate, placing it about 4 in. on both sides of the seed row. Then, he comes back and sidedresses the other half of N, when corn is about 5 in. high.

“If we need any P and K, we have that broadcast by our local co-op,” he says. In the future, he’s considering applying P and K into the fall strips.

Strip-till is not just catching on with large acreages. Fred Abels of Holland, IA, set up a six-row strip-till machine for spring use for watershed protection with two goals: light tillage and precise fertilizer placement. The cost was about $1,000/row. “We used a Case/IH planter bar and mounted a row of Kinze dry-fertilizer boxes on the front and a second row of John Deere dry boxes near the rear,” explains Abels. (See http://tinyurl.com/striptill for more on Abels’ strip-till equipment.)

The first row of boxes drops a dry P and K mix about 4 in. beside the row, which is then incorporated by the anhydrous-ammonia knives. The second set of boxes feeds the same mix into the knives for distribution 3 in. deep. Yetter row openers and a simple system of three coulters/row prepare the seedbed in the strip. ISU’s Extension Ag Engineer Hanna helped Abels design the equipment setup.

Anhydrous ammonia is applied in the same pass, about 4 in. from the row on opposite side, with a toolbar hitch pulling the tank. Abels installs strips in early spring, then plants into them about a week or two later using row markers as guides. The entire operation is done without GPS.

After three years of use, Abels reports he’s getting consistent germination for a more even stand. “The strip leaves the soil very nice, and doesn’t leave a ridge,” he says. Also, by applying fertilizer right before the crop uses it, he eliminates potential nutrient leaching.

“The 2008 growing season was the best corn I ever had,” he says. “My yields were stuck at 150-160 for about five years. The previous year, the on-farm average was 185, and that’s non-GMO corn.”

Replanting is a headache, but RTK auto-steer systems in strip-till programs help growers turn this lemon into lemonade.

One Iowa grower reports he replanted directly over his previous A-B lines, and the new corn plants captured most of the previously applied fertilizer. Without RTK on both his fall strip-till machine and planter, he wouldn’t have been able to match the rows, and would have the mess of reworking the entire field. 

 

December 2010