After hearing detailed questions from farmers about fall strip-till during the recent Big Iron Farm Show, Thurston Mfg. Co. chief marketing officer Nick Jensen and Bob Saunders, a territory sales manager for Asgrow and De Kalb, decided to hold several meetings and strip-till demonstrations in the area last October. 

The meetings in Tolley, Souris and Ruthville, N.D., included presentations on growing corn in an area that, historically, has been known for wheat production. There were also discussions about making strip-till work, as well as the potential uses of cover crops.

In addition to presentations from Jensen and Jerad Liedberg, Monsanto territory agronomist, farmers also heard from the USDA’s NRCS district conservationists, and an agronomist with  CHS in Minot.

Seed And Strip-Till Technology

For farmers growing corn in those far-northern locations, strip-till lets the soil warm up faster than with no-till, Jensen says.

By coupling the benefits of strip-till with hybrids that have relative maturities of  80 days or fewer, it’s now possible to grow corn up to the Canadian border.

In fact, the Blu-Jet strip-till rig used at the North Dakota field-day demonstrations had just been used for demonstrations in Manitoba, Canada, he says.

“Strip-tilling corn is a concept that many farmers in North Dakota and Manitoba are interested in and it seems like that there could be more and more row crops like corn grown in the area,” Jensen says.”

Farmers wanted to know how to apply fertilizer, and what the pros and cons of fall vs. spring application are. The bottom line, says Jensen, is the farmers wanted to know specifically how they could make strip-till work.

Jensen recommends strip-tillers in north-central North Dakota try strip-tilling in the fall, but remain flexible in case spring strip-till is necessary because of weather issues.

UP CLOSE. Three attendees at the October strip-till field day in North Dakota check out freshly made berms.

“As a result, it’s very important for strip-tillers to choose strip-till equipment with versatility, including having the ability to adjust baskets so they can run light in the fall, but more aggressive in the spring to take out air pockets,” Jensen says.

Another requirement is being able to set hillers on strip-till rigs so they can run aggressively in the fall to build bigger berms, or run less aggressively in the spring, Jensen says.

“With berms built in the fall, you want them to settle over the winter from about 4 inches high down to 1½ to 2 inches in the spring,” he says. “If you’re strip-tilling in the spring, then you want lower berms created by the implement. Whether you strip-till in the fall, the spring or both, you don’t want that berm to invert.”

Width And Compaction

Would-be strip-tillers also asked Jensen about what type of strip-till rig they should choose, how wide it should be and how they should deal with compaction. Jensen says these three factors are related.

“Some strip-tillers want to know if they should strip-till 12 to 18 inches deep every year,” Jensen says. “It all has to do with how often a deep compaction layer exists in fields that will be strip-tilled. If they need to till 12 to 18 inches deep, year in and year out, they should use a deep shank like we have on a Blu-Jet SubTiller rig.

“If compaction’s less of a problem, then a shallow-shank strip-till rig with fertilizer shanks would work well.”

Jensen recommends strip-tillers weigh whether it’s more effective to deep-rip fields to a depth of 12 to 18 inches when they strip-till. Deep-ripping every year will require a tractor with lots of horsepower and a strip-till rig that’s isn’t too wide.

STRIP-TILLED CORN. Corn hybrids with relative maturities of 80 days or fewer, and advanced strip-till equipment, make it possible for farmers north of Minot, N.D., to grow good crops of corn.

If they don’t need to deep-rip every year, strip-tillers can go with a wider strip-till rig with fertilizer-application shanks. For these strip-tillers, compaction can be deep-ripped with a separate pass as needed. That deep-ripping may only be needed once every 3 or 5 years, he notes.

“If deep compaction isn’t a problem every year, deep-ripping fields every year when you’re strip-tilling will really reduce your efficiency,” Jensen says. “So whether you’re strip-tilling in North Dakota or elsewhere, it’s important to figure out what you need.

“The question about the width and type of strip-till rig, and whether deep-ripping or fertilizer shanks are the best ones to choose, indicates to me that there’s a high level of interest with farmers.  These are farmers who are weighing time and fuel efficiencies when the consider strip-till.”

At the strip-till meeting in Tolley, N.D., soil conditions were challenging.

“It really was too wet to strip-till,” Jensen says. “But we did strip-till and were encouraged by the results. The tractor’s tires were slipping, but the strip-till rig ran pretty well. The top 2 inches of soil were greasy. From 2 to 4 inches down the soil was sticky and mucky, and below 4 inches the soil was powder dry. We ran the strip-till knife 6½ inches deep, which allowed the soil to mix and that’s how we were able to build the berms.”