First identify what you want to try to achieve with strip-till. Define your specific goals and objectives with your strip-till system, well before you ever get into the field for the first time.
The other key is to understand your expectations. Be realistic with the information you acquire on strip-till to weigh what is going to be applicable and achievable in
1. Ride your Horses
Matching your strip-till rig row units with tractor horsepower is the first thing I recommend. This isn’t the easiest thing to do because different manufacturers have their recommended horsepower-per row unit. Usually, it’s going to be right around that 30 hp per unit, but abide by those manufacturer recommendations.
“Bottom line is, consider the full-system approach with strip-till and the details will make the difference…”
One of the big advantages with a strip-till is being able to get down within that zone throughout the soil profile. Don’t try to take shortcuts with accepting less horsepower than you should have, or you won’t build the berm you want or place those nutrients where they need to be. At the same time, if you have too much horsepower, you might run too quick and have trouble maintaining depth.
2. Sizing Up or Down
Make sure you properly match up your equipment. You may need to downsize the number of row units across your strip-till toolbar compared to other pieces of equipment, but you’ll want to match them up as best you can. For example, a 12-row strip-till unit with a 16-row planner. Or a 12-row strip-till unit with a 24-row planter works well.
On our own operation, we started off with an 8-row unit and a 16-row planter. We actually upgraded to a 12-row strip-till unit and maintained the 16 row planter. I’ve not had any problems with that with RTK accuracy or auto-steer on both ends, but be aware of how you match equipment to keep that consistency in the row.
3. Shank Success
We’ve found that the shank is better for deeper tillage in the fall with the strip-till unit. On our operation, shanks have been effective breaking up compaction. Every other year, we’re offsetting the strip-till units so in a 30-inch row setup, we’re moving 15 inches back and forth every year.
The first 3-4 years, we were able to break through those compacted areas and we’re able to go through and strip-till more smoothly and we credit the shank with that success. Consider your objectives and look at options for shank size, shape and curvature — straight vs. a curved shaft. As we’ve done some spring strip-till, we’ve experimented with a thinner shank, for anhydrous application that runs well in wetter spring conditions ahead of planting.
Bottom line is, consider the full-system approach with strip-till and the details will make the difference. Start simple and add more and more goals each and every year, once you get comfortable. Never stop learning and adapting. And most importantly, always