Even during the driest of times, strip-till systems are offering advantages for farmers.
Here are some advantages we observed from strip-till in 2012, which was potentially one of the top three driest years in recorded history in the western Corn Belt.
• Able to grow deeper rooter corn varieties quicker this spring;
• Accessed more soil moisture stored due to increased root-to-soil volume. In places the plants accessed 3 to nearly 5 inches more water, which can make the difference between a crop and no crop that can be harvested.
• Even stands. What corn ears developed during the dry season produced more consistent ear size and kernel count per ear.
• In some places we helped the plant live 3 to 4 weeks longer, but if the strip-tilled crops caught a rain we had a crop — while fields where other tillage types were used died off.
• A combination of the two seed companies that had the more drought-hardy hybrids readily available for the 2012 season produced, with strip till, a positive synergistic result.
• Strip-till allowed precision placement of the nutrients prior to planting. Crops had a better start with, at first, a smart nitrogen program instead of pouring the nitrogen on early prior to planting. With such a dry year, the crop died and the nitrate levels were potentially astronomically high and growers realized some very poor livestock feed value.
• Strip-tilled crops withstood the spider-mite invasion somewhat better than conventionally tilled ground.