Monticello, Iowa, strip-tiller Jim Greif likes the smaller berms created by his John Deere 2510S strip-till rig.

After no-tilling corn for 25 years, Jim Greif of Monticello, Iowa, turned to strip-till in the fall of 2010.

"I thought our no-till yields were starting to lag, especially in corn-on-corn" Greif says. "The phosphate and potash just were not getting down deep enough in the soil."

Greif and his wife, Sharon, grow corn and soybeans, custom farm and operate Prairieview Ag Service, which sells seed and chemicals and provides precision ag services.

Two ethanol plants in the area use lots of corn, Greif says, and if prices stay well above $7 per bushel, the Greifs plan on planting about 66% of their ground to corn-on-corn and the rest to soybeans for 2012.

Better Emergence

Grief says strip-till makes continuous corn more feasible because of improved residue management. He says the standability of their corn was better compared to check strips, and the emergence and stand were considerably improved.

The check strips consisted of fall strip-till with phosphate and potash, strip-till with no fertilizer and no-till with fertilizer spread on top of the ground.

The Greifs' strip-tilled corn fared better in the 60 mph winds that flattened most of the corn in the area on July 20. While their strip-tilled corn got hit, it grew back fairly well.

"I think the strip-tilled corn rooted better," Jim Greif says. "It didn't go down or root-lodge as badly as the other corn did."

Starting Off New

To get started on strip-tilling last fall, the Greifs bought a new John Deere 2510S Strip-Till Residue Master Applicator. The 12-row rig, with 30-inch spacings, has a coulter up front followed by two trash wheels, a knife for dry fertilizer and anhydrous ammonia, and closing disc wheels.

Greif likes the fact that the 2510S doesn't build a big berm.

Jim Greif says strip-tilling corn does a better job of managing residue than no-till in continuous corn, and placing phosphate and potash in strips should eliminate the stratification that occurs with no-till.

"In fact, in the fall of 2010, the berms were very minimal," he says. "I like planting into almost flat ground. After the berms settled last winter, they were basically flat in the spring."

The Greifs use a John Deere 8520T tracked tractor with Deere's RTK-based AutoTrac system to pull the rig, dry fertilizer cart and anhydrous tank in the fall.

"The tractor has 300 horsepower, and it takes all of that to pull the 2510S, Flexi-Coil cart and anhydrous tank," Greif says. "It takes about 20 gallons of hydraulic oil per minute to operate all of this equipment."

Looking For Guidance

Greif plants with a John Deere 1770 12-row corn planter with 30-inch row spacings. He uses John Deere's iGuide implement guidance system on the rig and when planting, which eliminates eliminating the need for gauge markers.

Greif likes the fact that fall strip-till places the phosphorus and potassium down into the soil profile, where the corn roots can reach it.

"At planting time, I'm putting on 70 units of nitrogen, 10 units of sulfur and pop-up starter," he says. "The pop-up is a liquid — 7-18-6 or 6-18-6 — that's going in the furrow."

Some strip-tillers like to apply anhydrous on their corn ground, but Greif likes starter fertilizer at planting and then sidedressing using a homemade 3-point-hitch toolbar with saddle tanks on the tractor.

"We will put on anhydrous in the fall when strip-tilling for landowners who want that," Jim Greif says. "For these clients, we don't put on starter when planting in the spring."

Feed The Corn

The Greifs have been using variable-rate fertilizer programs for years. Some strip-tillers say that the practice allows them to cut phosphate and potash rates and reduce their costs, but the Greifs aren't necessarily cutting back on phosphate and potash.

"As corn yields increase, the amount of nitrogen we use has been increasing, too," he says. "We are growing more bushels of corn, so we have to put on more nitrogen."