From stalk-crushing equipment to vertical tillage, strip-tillers are using a variety of methods to manage corn-stalk residue. Their management tactics work for corn after soybeans, continuous corn and corn after wheat.
Here's what readers told us about how they handle residue issues in their strip-till fields.
Lowpoint, Ill., strip-tiller Todd Mooberry harvested this field, which had been in continuous corn for 7 years, using a John Deere 9670 combine with stalk stompers. He then followed up with a Great Plains Turbo-Till. (Mooberry photo)
Three years ago, Lowpoint, Ill., strip-tiller Todd Mooberry put stalk-crushing attachments on his eight-row John Deere 9670 combine, which is set to 30-inch spacings.
Mooberry provides three reasons for doing this.
"First, they break stalks to speed up decomposition," he says. "Second, it keeps residue from being windrowed by a cross wind. Residue windrows can be a serious problem if the residue covers a row shortly after planting. That can affect seedling growth.
"Third, stalk crushers reduce tire damage. I use Lankota-brand stompers because they're built heavy and hold up well."
Shortly after harvest, Mooberry applies ammonium sulphate to crop residue. The combination of the stalk-crushing equipment and AMS kick-starts the decomposition process, he says.
On fields that have extremely high residue, Mooberry makes a pass with a Great Plains Turbo-Till, running it about 3 inches deep.
Chopping Head Works
Wyndermere, N.D., strip-tiller Carson Klosterman likes how a chopping header on a John Deere 9770 combine sizes corn stalks. About 60% of Klosterman's acres are in corn, 25% in soybeans and 15% in sugarbeets.
"In 2005, we started with the Geringhoff Rota Disc chopping header," Klosterman says. "Hands down, using the chopping header has had a positive effect.
"The sized residue makes for easier residue breakdown, which makes for easier tillage. We use to combine, stalk chop, disc and chisel plow. Now, we just combine with the chopping head and disc-chisel or strip-till it."
Using a chopping header when combining leaves fields black and/or strips cleaner, which makes it easier to plant in the spring, says North Dakota strip-tiller Carson Klosterman. (Klosterman photo)
Klosterman says he recognizes that chopping headers leave a mat of residue on the ground where he plans to make strips in the spring.
But by chopping the stalks short, they don't seem to hold as much snow as fields with long stalks. By spring, the mat of chopped stalks is not a problem, he says.
"The fields are black and/or the strips are cleaner, which lets the planter do a better job," Klosterman says.
The Klostermans strip-till fields that have good drainage so the snow has a place to go when it melts in the spring. This gives them plenty of time to get into the fields and make strips with their Dawn Pluribus strip-till units.
"The little pieces of residue are easy to handle and are more accessible to the soil organisms to eat all winter and spring," Klosterman says. "Stalks don't decompose nearly as fast when they are in the air vs. in contact with the soil."
Rolling Corn Stalks
Several years ago, Klosterman experimented with cutting corn stalks several inches higher, and he also tried rolling stalks in the spring.
He thought the tractor tires might push over taller stalks more easily when strip-tilling, but the rolled stalks didn't crush — they bent and just came back up.
As a result, the Klostermans decided to cut the corn stalks short with the header.
Ontario strip-tiller Craig Mustard leaves corn stalks about knee high when harvesting with a Case combine, which semi chops the stalks. (Mustard photo)
Leave Stalks Intact
Uxbridge, Ontario, strip-tiller Craig Mustard and his family, who started strip-tilling several years ago, leave their corn stalks intact.
"We chopped them once and found it was difficult to find the rows in order to till in between them," says Mustard. "Chopping also left all the residue on the ground, making it more difficult to move them out of the way with the residue managers.
"Harvesting with the head fairly high, and leaving the stalks about knee-high or higher, has worked well for us. We have a Case IH combine, so the stalks are semi chopped."
The Mustards use RTK with their Blu-Jet strip-till rig, moving over 15 inches the next spring to strip-till between the rows. They've strip-tilled corn-on-corn and corn following winter wheat.
Cut Stalks Short
Hamlin, N.Y., strip-tiller Joe Brightly and his father have tweaked how they manage corn stalks since they started strip-tilling 2 years ago. The Brightlys use a Case 2366 combine with a six-row, 30-inch spacing 2206 head. They don't shred corn stalks.
"We use regular snap rollers and cut the stalks as close to the ground as we can — 8 to12 inches off the ground," Brightly says. "We just leave the stalks if we are following corn with corn, unless the residue is exceptionally thick. In that case, we use a Case True-Tandem 330 Turbo vertical-tillage unit."
The Brighlys grow corn and soybeans, as well as vegetables for processing and fresh markets. This includes sweet corn, snap beans and peas for processing, along with cabbage, squash, cucumbers and pumpkins for fresh markets. They have strip-tilled all of these vegetables, except peas and cabbage.
"If we follow corn with a vegetable crop that may need to be cultivated, we try to run the 330 Turbo over the stalks in the fall to speed up to breakdown process," Brightly says. "Then we can strip in the spring and the row cultivators don't plug from the residue."