In addition to agronomic reasons for strip-tillers to band fertilizer, there are environmental ones, too, says Wayne, Ohio, strip-tiller Travis Harrison says.

Water quality in Ohio is a hot button issue. Harrison says state and federal regulators may end up restricting the broadcasting of phosphorus starting later this year. These regulations could prohibit the application of phosphorus during the winter and on frozen ground.

"State and federal agencies want phosphate applied in a way that it makes contact with the soil and binds," Harrison says. "If that's how they want us to go, then I think that by banding phosphate and potash we are ahead of the curve. I share the concern about water quality because my family goes out on Lake Erie, too. And many of the towns in the region draw their drinking water from the lake."

Lake Erie and other lakes, streams are suffering from algae, largely the result of phosphorus moving off farm fields, says Randall Reeder, an ag engineering consultant and retired Ohio State University professor.

No-till was blamed about 3 years ago for this problem, but the real culprit seems to be any tillage system that leaves the phosphorus fertilizer on the surface, or near the surface.

"It only takes about a 1% loss to create the problem algae blooms," Reeder says. "This requires an attitude change by farmers and the rest of us who would typically react, 'Wow! Only a 1% loss; I'll take that any day.'

"Strip-till is one natural solution because you can place fertilizer from 4 inches deep and deeper, solving the problem of dissolved phosphorus washing off the surface," he says. "Strip-till keeps most of the benefits of no-till and minimizes or eliminates the loss of phosphorus that attaches to soil particles."