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A Simple Strip-Till Plan Produces Diverse Results

Less soil disturbance and targeted anhydrous application help Illinois strip-tiller Jerry Henkel reduce erosion, trim nitrogen use by 40% and improve corn yields.

With his bare-bones row-unit setup on a rented toolbar, Jerry Henkel doesn’t consider himself a traditional strip-tiller. But for the last 15 years, Henkel’s simple approach to strip-till has helped reduce nitrogen usage, improve corn yields and nearly eliminate erosion concerns.

A no-tiller since 1991, Henkel moved to strip-tilled corn so he could target application of fertilizer — especially nitrogen — beneath the soil surface, while avoiding invasive tillage. Henkel relies on a custom-built strip-till unit to place anhydrous ammonia in shallow fall strips on his 1,700-acre corn and soybean operation near Amboy, Ill.

“Our primary goal on the farm has always been good stewardship of the land and looking at net return, rather than just bushels we harvest,” Henkel says. “If we have to sacrifice a couple of bushels, but come out ahead on the bottom line, it’s a no-brainer.”

Henkel has overcome some early challenges adopting strip-till, increasing corn yields by several bushels each year and currently averaging close to 200 bushels per acre.

“It’s been a steady rise and even in 2012, when it was so dry, my brother was running our combine and called me to ask if our Dad would ever have imagined we could produce more than 300 bushels of corn on that particular farm,” Henkel says. “I know it would have brought a smile to his face knowing that we could harvest record yields in a drought year.”

Nutrient Lessons

Henkel’s first foray into strip-tilled corn was with a rented 12-row DMI toolbar…

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