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Cutting Nitrogen Costs by 40% with Strip-Till

Mark Ricker has seen yields grow, soil health improve and applied nutrient usage fall since switching from no-till to strip-till more than 20 years ago.


Pictured Above: HEAVY WORKLOAD. Mark Ricker keeps his veteran DMI 5310 busy every spring strip-tilling a minimum of 3,500 acres of row-crop ground on his five-way rotation farm near Raymond, Kan

Mark Ricker switched from no-till to strip-till in 1995 and in the ensuing 22 years he has continually improved his yields, while at the same time, cut his fertilizer purchases by 40%.

“We’ve moved our dryland insurance corn yields to 100 bushels per acre with yields up to 160 bushels per acre, whereas before strip-tilling our insurance yields were in the 50-60 bushel range,” he explains. “I attribute that largely to better placement of fertilizer, improved crop genetics and the rotation with cover crops.” 

On irrigated fields, Ricker’s corn averages 200-210 bushels per acre, his soybeans 66 bushels per acre and sunflowers, 3,000-4,000 pounds per acre. Ricker, who farms 5,500 acres of sandy silt-loam near Raymond, Kan., says as a no-tiller he became interested in strip-till in the early 1990s, particularly because he thought it would help him make better use of his fertilizer inputs. 

For a year, he experimented with Blu-Jet in-row ripper from Thurston Mfg., equipped with closing discs and saw positive results. The experience led him to purchase his current DMI 5310 16-row, 30-inch strip-tiller in 1995.

“I was convinced if we could place the nutrients right under the row we could cut back on fertilizer,” he explains. “We cut back a lot. We knew what we had to do to get good results with the…

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