Veteran strip-tiller Jerry Baysinger shares how he makes the system work in the fall, winter and spring.

When you ask Nebraska strip-tiller Jerry Baysinger whether he makes strips and applies fertilizer in the fall or spring, be prepared for some unusual answers.

“I don’t get too hung up on not getting all of my strip-till done in the fall,” says Baysinger, who has been strip-tilling since 1995.

Indeed, he strip-tills whenever Mother Nature allows. He strip-tills in the fall and in the spring, and even in the winter.

“It’s nice to strip-till in the fall and winter and have another freeze-thaw cycle,” he says.

Fall 2009 Gamble

But before you hear how the Bruning, Neb., farmer makes winter strip-till work, consider how he coped in the fall of 2009. Like many farmers, Baysinger faced high-moisture corn and long lines at elevators swamped with wet corn.

“We shook the dice. We parked the combine for about a week and a half and strip-tilled while everyone else was picking wet corn,” Baysinger says. “I figured we could harvest when the ground was frozen, but not strip-till.

“It worked great as our corn had a chance to dry more in the field and we got some fertilizer applied. We then finished harvest before the big snowfall event in December,” he says.

Baysinger built strips and applied anhydrous on about 400 acres last fall, far short of the 1,700 acres of corn he typically strip-tills. In addition, he no-tills 1,500 acres of soybeans.

He still has about 1,300 acres to strip-till before planting corn, but he’s not going to wait until spring to apply anhydrous. Since Super Bowl Sunday 10 years ago, Baysinger has applied anhydrous during the winter if the soil is fit. That means fewer acres to strip-till in the spring.

The first time he applied anhydrous in late January sure caught the attention of his neighbors. But Baysinger, who holds a doctorate in crop science, says it can work under the right conditions.

In fact, he was raring to go one February.

“We were just waiting for the ground to dry out,” Baysinger says. “If we can get a week of 40- or 50-degree weather in February, we’ll be ready to get in the field. Just start the tractor up. The toolbar is ready to go.”

Typically in January or early February in eastern Nebraska, there’s not that much snow on the ground, Baysinger says. Heavy, wet snow in the Western Corn Belt tends to come in late February or March.

During most of the past 10 winters, Baysinger has been able to strip-till in January and February. In 2008, Baysinger strip-tilled on Dec. 14, the last day for strip-till before the ground froze. He resumed strip-tilling on Feb. 12 for about 2 days before a snowstorm hit.

He was out of the fields until the middle of March, then strip-tilled for about 2 weeks. He finished his last strip-tilled fields 3 to 4 weeks before he started planting corn.

Winter Stripping Tips

There are several keys to successfully strip-tilling in the winter and spring, Baysinger says. In the winter, the soil will come up a bit chunkier at times due to surface frost.

“We just adjust our sealing discs and our row cleaners,” Baysinger says.

He makes adjustments as field conditions change. For example, snow can mat down residue. If that occurs, he sets the row cleaners a notch lower so they move the residue away. Otherwise, the machine will plug.

His strip-till machine has cutting coulters and residue managers. Set right, residue managers clear a nice path, which allows the strip-till knife to get through residue without plugging. Notched disc sealers are important so loose soil goes back over the knife and creates a good seal, he says.

Strip-tilling during the winter can be easier than in the fall, Baysinger says. The moisture has left the ground from freezing temperatures. The toolbar pulls through the ground more easily than it does in the fall.

“That little freeze-thaw cycle changes the soil noticeably,” Baysinger says. “I think this year, it’s going to be more critical to strip-till in the winter. Our window of opportunity for planting will be relatively short.”

Applying Anhydrous

He uses anhydrous knives that are 0.375 inch wide when strip-tilling in the fall, winter and spring. These narrower knives wear out faster than wider knives, but Baysinger likes the benefits.

Narrow knives make narrow slots, which are easier to seal. They take less horsepower and less fuel. All in all, he’s happy to replace knives faster.

Baysinger runs his 12-row strip-till machines on 30-inch spacings. It takes a 200-horsepower tractor — 16 to 17 horsepower per row when using 0.375-inch-thick knives — to pull the strip-till machine.

He wants the anhydrous knives to run 7 inches or deeper.

“Watch the depth, especially in the spring,” Baysinger says. “If there’s not enough horsepower to pull the anhydrous toolbar, the tractor will slow down when going uphill and the knives will tend to run closer to the surface.”

That can cause seed burn, Baysinger says.

He uses aNH3’s Equaply system because it evenly applies anhydrous row to row.

“During cold temperatures, you deal with ammonia tanks that have low pressure,” Baysinger says. “Without a pump system, it’s impossible to get row-to-row equality.”

Baysinger tries to build 2-inch berms in the fall. Closer to planting, he wants berms that are 1.5 to 2 inches tall.

Simplifying Strip-Till

For simplicity, he only applies anhydrous with his strip-till machines.

“With several employees strip-tilling, things need to be streamlined and simple, especially if you have to strip-till 24/7,” Baysinger says. “We make a separate trip for our phosphate needs or address them with an at-plant application.”

He does have customers who dual-place 10-34-0 or dry phosphate and potash with anhydrous to precisely place nutrients in one pass. This works well with rotations of strip-till corn and no-till soybeans.

Strip-Till Soybeans

Baysinger would like to strip-till soybeans, but hasn’t always had enough time to do that.

“We’ve always gotten a good response when we tried it,” he says.

Yield response has been 2 to 5 bushels better where soybeans were strip-tilled applying 10-34-0 compared to soybeans planted no-till.

“Our priority has been to get all the corn strip-tilled and fertilized first,” he adds.