If you want to know just how much difference strip-tilled corn yields can make, just ask Roger Wenning of Greensburg, Ind.
Roger Wenning says strip-till has helped him plant corn earlier and boost yield and income.
"With strip-till, we can plant corn 1 to 2 days earlier than with no-till," says Wenning. "In 2010, if you didn't get corn planted by mid-April, you had to wait until late May or early June to get in and plant. The difference between the corn planted early and corn planted late was 40 to 50 bushels per acre."
With $6-per-bushel corn, that meant $240 to $300 per acre from strip-tilling, says Wenning, who is one of three strip-tillers speaking at the 2012 National No-Tillage Conference to be held Jan. 11 to 14 in St. Louis, Mo.
Wenning grows about 300 acres each of corn and soybeans. While drought hit much of the eastern Corn Belt in 2010, Wenning harvested 205-bushel corn. But hot, dry weather during pollination in July 2011 cut his corn yields to an average of 125 to 130 bushels per acre.
Running In Spring
Wenning strip-tills in the spring with a strip-till rig he built from an old Case IH 900 planter.
Wenning took the coulters, mole knives and disc closers off an anhydrous ammonia applicator, welded a toolbar onto the planter and attached six row units to it. He also built soil crumblers for each row.
Wenning pulls his planter with a 95-horsepower John Deere 6430 tractor, and the strip-till rig with a 120-horsepower Massey Ferguson 1135 tractor.
Wenning prefers spring strip-till on his farm ground because of its rolling and highly erodible qualities.
"If I strip-tilled in the fall, the ground would wash," he says. "All of the ground is grid tiled. With strip-till, I can plant 1 to 2 days sooner. I also use cover crops, which keep the soil in place."
He places 75 pounds per acre of AMS and maintenance levels of phosphorus and potassium, where required, about 6 inches deep. He doesn't see the need to place fertilizer deeper than 6 inches in the strip-tilled area.
"I don't have a hardpan, so I don't need to deep-till, but I do wonder how deep I should be placing fertilizer," Wenning says.
A Mix Of Fertilizers
Wenning's fertilizer dealer mixes AMS, phosphate and potash, which Wenning puts in the two fertilizer boxes on the strip-till rig that were part of the old planter. He uses the planter's fertilizer-delivery system for strip-tilling.
"Often, we strip-till and plant on the same day, if we have to," Wenning says. "Ideally, I prefer to strip-till and wait a week before planting corn, hoping for a rain to settle down the berms."
Wenning weighs the cost of nitrogen when deciding whether to apply urea or liquid nitrogen. Urea is 1 to 2 cents per pound cheaper than 28% liquid nitrogen. He also broadcasts phosphate every year to equalize nutrient values throughout the fields.
"I used to raise hogs and there are places by the barns where the soil tests high in phosphorus," Wenning says. "I spread 100 to 150 pounds an acre of potash, depending on the soil type.
"In 2012, I will add some urea. With my corn planter, I put on 15 to 20 gallons per acre of 28% liquid nitrogen in a 2-by-2-inch placement. Then I come back and sidedress 28% nitrogen."