Play the latest episode:

Subscribe to this podcast

Subscribe - Podcast
Brought to you by:

Source.jpg

“The labor and fuel savings on the big tractor are just phenomenal. We used to have to get the tractor working ground a day or 2 ahead of the planter. Now we don't have to worry about that. Now we just plant into the most beautiful seed bed you could ask for.”

— Rock Katschnig, Strip-Tiller, Prophetstown, Ill.

Illinois farmer Rock Katschnig experiences a laundry list of benefits from strip-till. Yields, soil health, compaction issues and standability have all improved, while his labor, equipment and input costs, as well as erosion problems, have all decreased in the 9 years since he started strip-tilling.

In today’s episode of the Strip-Till Farmer podcast, brought to you by SOURCE by Sound Agriculture, Katschnig talks about how strip-till has benefited his 3,500 acre operation in northwestern Illinois, the equipment he uses to strip-till, what changes he’s making this year to his fertilizer program amid an expensive fertilizer market and much more.

google-play.jpg
stitcher.jpg
Spotify
tunein.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source.jpg

The Strip-Till Farmer podcast is brought to you by SOURCE®️ by Sound Agriculture.

Wake up your soil and unlock more per acre with SOURCE®️ by Sound Agriculture. SOURCE is a biochemistry that activates microbes in the soil to provide more nitrogen and phosphorus to corn and soybean crops. It’s simple to use with a low use rate, tank mix compatibility, and flexible application window. Use the Performance Optimizer tool to determine where SOURCE will work best to increase yield or reduce nitrogen - either way you win. Visit Sound.Ag to learn more.

Past Podcasts

 

Full Transcript

Michaela Paukner:

I'm Michaela Paukner, associate editor of Strip-Till Farmer. Welcome to this episode of the Strip-Till Farmer Podcast Series. I encourage you to subscribe to this series wherever you get your podcasts. Subscribing allows you to receive an alert about new episodes when they're released.

Michaela Paukner:

Thanks to Source by Sound Agriculture for supporting this Strip-Till Podcast Series. Wake up your soil and unlock more per acre with Source by Sound Agriculture. Source is a biochemistry that activates microbes in the soil to provide more nitrogen and phosphorus to corn and soybean crops.

Michaela Paukner:

It's simple to use with a low use rate, tank mix compatibility, and flexible application window. Use the performance optimizer tool to determine where Source will work best to increase yield or reduce nitrogen, either way you win. Visit sond.ag to learn more.

Michaela Paukner:

Illinois farmer, Rock Katschnig experiences a laundry list of benefits from Strip-Till. Yields, soil health, compaction issues, and standability have all improved while his labor, equipment, and input costs, as well as erosion problems have all decreased in the nine years since he started strip tilling.

Michaela Paukner:

In today's episode of the Strip-Till Farmer Podcast, Rock talks about how Strip-Till has benefited his 3,500 acre operation, the equipment he uses to strip till, what changes he's making this year to his fertilizer program [inaudible 00:01:38] an expensive fertilizer market and much more. Here's Rock to get us started.

Rock Katschnig:

We are currently around 3,500 acres and we would prefer to strip till every acre, even straight potash going on corn stocks, that's going to go to soybeans have considered 15 inch row soybeans, I've had 15 inch row beans in the past, but we feel that we get a better seed bed, better utilization out of our fertilizer, planting that seed right on top of the fertility. So if we can't cover it all with Strip-Till bar, we will spread conventional with our floater and then maybe do a vertical, just a light vertical minimum tillage pass to incorporate the dry fertilizer on soybean ground.

Michaela Paukner:

And what is the scenario when you're having to do that versus all strip till.

Rock Katschnig:

Well, it's just a matter of time, it's just a time of getting it all done, and soil conditions. If we didn't get it done in the fall and then we're too wet in the spring, but we really prefer to strip till every acre. The advantages just outweigh conventional fertility and conventional planting by far.

Rock Katschnig:

I think we're in year nine of our strip tilling. The first year we hired 250 acres done by a custom applicator to give it a try, and we were very happy with how it turned out, we were stripping 16 and planting 24, we found out we could make that work. So we have a lot of marginal soil and highly rotable sand, and we found that we can leave so much more residue and keep that sand cooler by planting between last year's corn stocks say, for instance, is corn on corn underneath my irrigators.

Rock Katschnig:

We suffered from stratification. For years, we just spread our potash and phosphate on top, worked it in likely possibly with a little vertical tillage, and we weren't getting the fertility down to where it needed to be in the root zone. With strip tillage, we can place it on exactly on top of the fertility.

Rock Katschnig:

We've picked up our yields through the years. We've picked up our yields that we were never able to do before. We throw what we thought was adequate levels of fertility on our soils, and it just, we weren't getting where we wanted to be. And as people have told me, I asked a lot of questions from a lot of neighbors and people that were strip tilling already, and they said it takes a little period of time for everything to come together, to break up those compaction zones, to get that fertility level down there at the level you want it to be, and everything come together and they were all correct.

Rock Katschnig:

We have loosened up our soils, we have a lot of very heavy, tightly, poorly drained soils. And when we were in conventional tillage, we made so many passes on the end rows that they were like concrete and we never had crop there. Well, now we've got crop there, in fact, we've got just as going to crop there as we do the middle of the field.

Rock Katschnig:

The labor savings, and the fuel, and the hours on the, you might say the big horse, the big tractor, it's just phenomenal. The savings, labor we used to have to get the tractor working ground a day or two ahead of the planter. So when the planter was took off, it could roll. Well, now we don't have to worry about that, now we just plant into the most beautiful seed bed you could ask for. Now, in Northwestern, Illinois, there's people with concerns about dryness.

Rock Katschnig:

Well, that's another one of the many, many good points about strip tillage is you don't disturb that moisture that's there from over the winter season, you conserve so much soil moisture, you plant, and even emergence, even emergence when you can use a tillage colter, trash whipper, and just get in the most ideal seed bed you could possibly ask for.

Rock Katschnig:

And the uniformity of emergencies where that pay is off. Aside from all the hours on equipment, and the wear, and tear on displays, and shovels, and all the things of this nature, we freed up a person now that he can, that person can free up a person to start spraying right behind the planter rather other than one or two people working ground ahead of the planter.

Rock Katschnig:

So yes, you have to be kind of dedicated, and set up, and ideally get your fall strip tilling done on your heavy ground, but it certainly pays versus all the trips you save and the seed bed you gain. And the soil profile, we went to a lot of meetings and they mentioned the earthworm activity and the benefits of that microbial activity in your soil, it is phenomenal.

Rock Katschnig:

The amount of earth worms that we find when we dig into that root zone for that germinating seed. And again, in our irrigated sand that gets so warm that residue from the previous year's crop helps hold that moisture in and keep that soil so much cooler.

Rock Katschnig:

A friend mentioned an example of walking on a beach, a bear sand, or walking on an area where there's grass, the different from temperature, the surface temperature of that soil. So that's a perfect example of what cover crop or last year's residue will do for you.

Michaela Paukner:

So you guys are using cover crops too, then?

Rock Katschnig:

Yes, we do. We're somewhat limited as to how much growth we can get before our season ends. We definitely use cover crops where we'll take soybeans off highly erodable land, because if we strip till we can't leave bear sand, wind erosion is one of our biggest enemies, so we'll go on there, I raise a lot of cereal rye on our marginal sand, and we'll go out there and we'll broadcast that rye as early as we can, if need be, we'll get it started growing with the irrigators. And then that provides us a really good cover crop when we do go in there to strip till that wind erosion, isn't such a concern.

Michaela Paukner:

And what do you use to terminate the cover crops?

Rock Katschnig:

We'll try to get in early with Roundup or a Liberty, or there's a multitude of products you can use. Now, with the way this world is turned upside down with our herbicide prices, that's really going to change cover crops, but the earlier you can get in there the better and get a good kill, and gosh, we've had really good luck with cover crop on poor soil.

Rock Katschnig:

The other thing is it helps conserve your rain. When you do get rain, you don't have the runoff, you don't have the runoff, your steep slopes that cover crop ride there will help stabilize that rain and let it soak into the soil rather than running off.

Michaela Paukner:

How much precipitation are you guys typically getting in a year?

Rock Katschnig:

I'd be guessing for what that number is. I can't tell you this, that on our sandy soils, during the growing season, ideally we would like an inch per week. Our non-irrigated that's sometimes very tough to come by. A lot of our sand has very poor water holding capacity.

Michaela Paukner:

How much of the 3,500 acres are irrigated?

Rock Katschnig:

Oh, probably a third.

Michaela Paukner:

And then for your soil types, is it described as just sand or is there a specific soil type?

Rock Katschnig:

Well, I know our heavy, tight packed soils that are really hard to grow a crop in if you fight compaction or a Booker in Montgomery. And I think some of the poor sands were, I think Dickinson sand loam is when it comes to mind, I'd have to do a little research on that, but we have all the above when it comes to soil types.

Michaela Paukner:

Got you.

Rock Katschnig:

And sometimes they're all in the same field.

Michaela Paukner:

Right. That makes it difficult.

Rock Katschnig:

Yes. Another thing when we used to, and when we were in conventional tillage, we'd go in the spring and say, we'd have some areas in a field, maybe 5% of a field was a little bit too wet in the low areas. Well, there's where you brought up those clouds, and boulders, and getting in there in a wet spot too early.

Rock Katschnig:

And that was hard to create an ideal seed bed there. And with strip tillage, that's one of the greatest parts of strip till is that good uniform, mellow seed bed. Last year, we found something kind of interesting. We had some very, very severe wind in our area. And as I harvested the corn, if I would've had a wind policy on corn, I would not have collected, and I would be fence row to fence row with a neighbor, and on their side, they had flat corn and my corn was standing.

Rock Katschnig:

And I've said ever since then, if you have strong roots, you have strong stocks. And we had very good luck except for one particular hybrid, and the company knew that there was an issue with that hybrid and it's been addressed by that company. But overall, on all our acres, we're very, very happy with the standability of our corn. And I attribute that to the root development and those nutrients being able to go up in there and keep that stock strong and standing.

Michaela Paukner:

Before we get back to the conversation, I'd like to thank our sponsor, Source by Sound Agriculture, for supporting the Strip-Till Farmer Podcast Series. Wake up your soil and unlock more per acre with Source by Sound Agriculture. Source is a biochemistry that activates microbes in the soil to provide more nitrogen and phosphorus to corn and soybean crops.

Michaela Paukner:

It's simple to use the low use rate, tank mix compatibility, and flexible application window. Use the performance optimizer tool to determine where Source will work best to increase yield, or reduce nitrogen, either way you win. Visit sond.ag to learn more. Now, let's get back to the conversation

Michaela Paukner:

You're strip tilling in the fall and the spring, right?

Rock Katschnig:

Yes. On our sandier soils, we use anhydrous ammonia, we pull anhydrous ammonia, behind the bar, we have a nine ton dry tank on Krause KUHN Gladiator strip hill bar. And on our sandier course of soils, we would prefer to put the anhydrous ammonia on in the spring.

Rock Katschnig:

But with the crazy prices, we are battling right now, our supplier locked in our product last summer and we needed to get it on last fall. So we got 97% of our corn ground strip tilled last fall, and about probably 90% of our ground going to soybeans strip till last fall.

Michaela Paukner:

Wow. How does that compare to how you're usually splitting the time between fall and spring?

Rock Katschnig:

Well, it's all depends on the weather. We've had years when we got very little strip tilling done, and that created a much higher workload for spring, but my son-in-law runs the strip till bar, and I think the year before last, we were still stripping December 24th.

Rock Katschnig:

If the field conditions are conducive, we roll. If it's too wet and we plug and it's not conducive well, it just means we have to get it done in spring. We've been able to cut back a third on our dry product and still feel we're getting adequate yields, and that is very, very substantial with where fertilizer prices are today.

Michaela Paukner:

What is the rate that you're applying the dry product?

Rock Katschnig:

Before the world turned upside down, we would apply 100 pounds of potash, and 50 pounds of MAP, and 15 pounds of sulfur in the strip. Now that phosphate has gotten so wild, we have gone to more, just a straight potash formula and cut back to 120 pounds.

Rock Katschnig:

We've felt we were safe doing this because for years, we had built up our fertility levels on land that I own as well as land that I rent. And so we had the levels build up to an adequate level, so we don't feel that we are facing a problem with depleting fertility.

Michaela Paukner:

And so is this year, the first year you're going to be doing the straight potash?

Rock Katschnig:

Yes. This is the first year we've chosen to go with just the straight potash because of the crazy price of phosphate.

Michaela Paukner:

What is the rate that you're applying the anhydrous ammonia on your sandy soils?

Rock Katschnig:

We will shoot for 180 units on previous year's soybean ground, 180 units, and then we'll come back and side dress an additional 50 units of 32% liquid. Corn on corn will go with 200 units of anhydrous as well as side dress, another 50 units with liquid 32%.

Michaela Paukner:

And are you soil testing?

Rock Katschnig:

We soil test every three years.

Michaela Paukner:

Is there a particular test or method that you use?

Rock Katschnig:

No. We just have our fertilizer supplier grid test, well, variable radar seed, and accordance with fertility levels in the field, and soil types in the field, and yield history in the field. But as far as variable rate from our strip till bar we're not.

Michaela Paukner:

And what is the rate that you're seeding, typically?

Rock Katschnig:

It's on a very, very poor, lighter soils, we'll go 28,000 to 30,000 and on our better, more productive soil, we will go 36,000 to 38,000.

Michaela Paukner:

Okay.

Rock Katschnig:

With soybeans, we'll shoot for oh, 130,000 to 140,000 seeds per acre in 30 inch rows.

Michaela Paukner:

And do you have any livestock?

Rock Katschnig:

No, I did for the first 33 years of my farming career, but no livestock now, just all corn and soybeans.

Michaela Paukner:

Earlier, you had mentioned that everybody that you had talked to when you first started strip tilling, said it takes some time for everything to come together. How long do you think it took you and the ground that you're farming to kind of get to that point where Strip-Till is really showing you these benefits and everything's working the way it's supposed to.

Rock Katschnig:

We started out with a 375 horsepower tractor on the front of a 16 row bar and we had our shank set at eight inches deep. And the rubber tire tractor with eight really wide tires, we were experiencing wheel hop from that thing pulling so hard and we had a little bit more of a problem holding a straight line with an articulated rubber tire tractor.

Rock Katschnig:

So the next year, I traded for a tractor with around 600 horse and on tracks, and keeps a much straighter line with your RTK guidance, and with the more horsepower, we had more horsepower to pull that bar. We have since backed up to about the seven inch level with that shank.

Rock Katschnig:

But during the growing season, when we dig and check for root ball development, you can certainly see the benefit of that tiled shattered area, where those roots have room to develop. But to answer your question, probably three years, three years before we could see an easier pulling bar from breaking up the years of compaction and that sub soil level.

Michaela Paukner:

Right. Are you still using that 600 horse tractor with tracks or are you onto something new?

Rock Katschnig:

No. And the nice part about that is that tractor isn't required to do any tillage, we have another track tractor that if there is a little bit of tillage necessary to smooth up in rows, we leave that on a vertical tillage implement the big tractor that stays on strip drill bar, stays on it the whole year, doesn't get unhooked from the bar the whole year, it just stays on it. We keep the hours so low that tractor's going to last me a long time.

Michaela Paukner:

Well, that's good to hear.

Rock Katschnig:

Yeah.

Michaela Paukner:

Oh, what kind of tractor is it?

Rock Katschnig:

It's a 875 Cat Challenger.

Michaela Paukner:

For your RTK, what are you using for that?

Rock Katschnig:

Well, we have the John Deere, I think it's a 2,600 since or 2,630, I think we're using the 2630 monitor. We don't have the most current up-to-date satellite technology, but it's been working. What we have has been working our [inaudible 00:20:12] side with our accuracy of staying on the strip. So the three levels of your GPS, your RTK system is your most accurate with like sub inch accuracy. My son-in-law is our technical expert.

Michaela Paukner:

Okay.

Rock Katschnig:

Yeah. He runs the bar, I keep him in tanks and fertilizer.

Michaela Paukner:

Okay. And is it just you two, mostly?

Rock Katschnig:

Pretty much, pretty until planting or harvest, but yeah, during strip tilling, two people can do it. I have to pull anhydrous tanks about 10 miles. Can range anywhere from two miles to 13 miles with our anhydrous tanks, and that takes some time, but you just have to be patient and stay safe, and I can usually be back to the field with a fresh set of tanks before he's empty.

Michaela Paukner:

Oh, that's good. And then you said you are running the KUHN Krause Gladiator bar. Could you just kind of walk me through how it's set up?

Rock Katschnig:

Well, our first original bar had a six ton dry tank on it. We ran that for about four or five seasons, and then I traded for an identical bar with a nine ton montage dry tank on it. And it's a really great setup, we end up with a tilt work black zone, probably eight inches wide, eight to 10 inches wide.

Rock Katschnig:

And that black tilt zone warms up so much quicker in the spring than if you had an assortment of residue across the whole seed bed, you're not mixing dry soil with moist soil in a spring from a tillage implement such as a field cultivator, there's just such uniformity in planting into that strip.

Michaela Paukner:

So it sounds like quite a few people around you are strip tilling?

Rock Katschnig:

Well, not a great deal. I'm really kind of confused why more aren't. We have fertilizer companies that will offer that, and I think we'll continue to see more in the future, but it's kind of a timely process of how many acres you can cover in a day when you're putting on dry and your nitrogen all in the same pass.

Rock Katschnig:

But it's more time consuming, but it certainly pays off in the spring. It is a considerable investment, but fertilizer is a considerable investment this year also, and when you can cut your fertility rate by a third and still hopefully maintain the same yields, if not better yields, you have a much quicker payoff when the fertility for when the fertilizer price is skyrocket like they've done.

Michaela Paukner:

Right, this year might be the year that gets people to try something new.

Rock Katschnig:

Right. I visited with Anthony Montag at the Commodity Classic in New Orleans, and yes, they have seen added interest in strip tilling. And the problem they're finding is sourcing the products they need to build their bars and deliver the bars to the new customers.

Michaela Paukner:

Yeah. Because they're also dealing with all the supply to change shortage type issues.

Rock Katschnig:

Exactly. Yes. Uh?

Michaela Paukner:

Was there anything else you wanted to mention that I didn't ask you about?

Rock Katschnig:

Well, as I've shared with Peter, from Krause KUHN and Anthony for Montag, we are just so satisfied with the increase we've seen in our yields from strip telling, the labor, fuel, equipment we're savings, very happy that we've made the move to strip till nine or so years ago.

Rock Katschnig:

Anthony Montag and his brother William, came out, I want to say the spring of 2020, because I had 20 acres that was strip tilled, I had nine acres on the south side of a concrete bridge that we couldn't get the strip till bar across. So I had had to rely on custom application of liquid nitrogen and fertilizer applied on top by a custom applicator.

Rock Katschnig:

When I combined those two fields with a combine, my yield monitor and I showed Anthony, there was 30 to 35 bushel per acre difference between the strip tilled field and the area with just all the nutrients were applied on top and worked in.

Michaela Paukner:

Wow.

Rock Katschnig:

It was the most drastic comparison I'd ever seen, and-

Michaela Paukner:

I know you said you're trying with straight potash this year, is there anything else new or different that you're trying out either this year or have plans to? No.

Rock Katschnig:

No. Every year's different, we'll see where our prices are in the fall and then we'll make our decisions there of what direction we're going to go with fertilizer mix.

Michaela Paukner:

Thanks to Rock Katsching for today's conversation. Look for an article about him and his operation and the Upcoming Spring Issue of Strip-Till Farmer Magazine. If you're not already subscribed to our free magazine, you can sign up at strip-tillfarmer.com/subscribe. If you're looking for more podcasts about Strip-Till, visit strip-tillfarmer.com/podcasts, or check out our episode library, wherever you get your podcast.

Michaela Paukner:

Finally, many thanks to Source by Sound Agriculture for helping to make this Strip-Till Podcast Series possible. From all of us here at Strip-Till Farmer, I'm Michaela Paukner. Thanks for listening.

Music: Lobo Loco - Echoes Boogie Dancehall