Fall strip-till can provide a wider window for planting corn in the spring and even boost yields. When done right, it creates a clean, warmer, mellower seedbed and provides an opportunity to apply nitrogen (N) — best if used with an N stabilizer — phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). 

About 43% of respondents in the 2020 Annual Strip-Till Operational Practices Benchmark Study by Strip-Till Farmer said they built strips in the fall of 2020, compared to about 36% who did so in fall 2019. Another approximately 21% did both spring and fall strip-building in 2020.

With fall strip-till on the rise once again, we brought together a group of farmers for a roundtable discussion about their best practices and advice for fall. Mark Seipel, a strip-till industry veteran and independent sales representative with Montag Mfg., moderated the conversation and noted these top tips for widening your window with fall strip-till. 

Tip #1

Strip-Till Machines Need to Cover More Acres Per Day …

Fall strip-tillage is a race against winter weather, so maximizing productivity during good conditions is a must. Fields should be favorable for tillage to create the ideal seedbed. 

One method for keeping the strip-till rig running while banding nutrients is using larger and/or multiple tanks. Strip-till toolbars equipped with fertilizers mounted onto the toolbar or towed behind it improve nutrient use efficiency. 

Utilizing tender trucks or trailers that match up to tanks on the strip-till rig will help keep it running seamlessly. Coordinating the tender truck with your strip-till rig to keep operations moving is very important, as is maintaining good relationships with suppliers, who can have a big impact on getting you the supplies you need — or not. 

Tip #2

… But a Bigger Rig is Not Always the Answer.

Keep in mind that wider toolbars get expensive and require more horsepower. Shank-style strip-till implements pulled at the proper depth require 20-30 horsepower per shank, according to Mike Petersen, an agronomist at Orthman. Rigs with other types of attachments, such as coulters, run at different speeds. Remember that creating a good seedbed can be limited by going the wrong speed.

Farmers at the roundtable noted that smaller rigs offer the ability to go faster, allowing you to work toward the goal of covering maximum acreage per day. Consider shallower strip depths as another way to increase your speed. 

Tip #3

Band P, K and Micronutrients in the Fall ... 

Start building strips immediately after harvest, banding nutrients from a prescription, for the right nutrients to be uniformly distributed and placed under each row across the strip-till toolbar. This allows the next cash crop to better utilize the applied nutrients by making them more plant available in the root zone, which can lead to a reduction in applied nutrients. Some farmers use low-disturbance openers for banding nutrients in the fall where the row will be, followed by a spring pass with a strip freshener to apply N pre-plant. 

Tip #4

… And Leave the N for Planting.

Remove anhydrous ammonia from your strip-till rig in the fall. Applying your N with your fall strips increases the odds of higher nitrates in water and of N leaching out of the soil profile and beyond the reach of roots.  

Instead, apply N at pre-plant or at planting and sidedress it for more efficient N use. Some farmers recommended offsetting those same low-disturbance openers to sidedress urea or UAN.