A need for better corn stands led these brothers to strip-till.

Strip-tillage intrigued Todd and Greg Gustin of Washington Court House, Ohio. For several years, the brothers curiously watched their neighbor’s strip-till bar travel through the fields, the corn emerge quickly and the resulting higher yields.

In 2002, Greg Gustin and his brother, Todd, began using strip-till on their Washington Court House, Ohio, farm after watching the neighbor’s results. Using strip-till in no-till corn enables them to plant 1 or 2 days earlier. “You can tell where the strips are,” Greg says about the earlier planting. “In straight bean stubble, the soil doesn’t warm up and dry out as quickly.”

The brothers were paying close attention to strip till-because they needed better stand counts to compete with conventional tillage. “You can’t consistently straight no-till our heavy clay soils in early spring — because it’s too cold and wet,” Todd explains. In the heavier soils the brothers were not getting consistent stand counts.

“Isoil structure’m a stickler for stands,” says the younger Gustin, who recently added a precision meter on the vacuum planter to improve seed drop and seeding rates.

In 2002, the Gustins’ neighbors ran a test strip across the brother’s field. Even though the brothers had seen the results on their friend’s farm, they were surprised at the outcome on their own acreage. “We’re definitely making improvements over straight no-till; we don’t have the stand issues,” Todd says about adding strip-till to their cropping system.  

After trying strips, the brothers bought the 24-row bar because their friends were buying new equipment. The 7200 Progressive bar is equipped with Remlinger strip-till row units.

Some other strip-till tools are not as aggressive, Todd notes. “It looks kind of rough and a little scary. If you look crossways across the field, at road level, the ground looks like it has been chiseled.” But with freezing and thawing over the winter months, the dirt mellows. In the spring, the planter travels about 4 1/2 miles per hour on the strips. The units clear 7 inches. “With a 7-inch strip we’re not disturbing enough soil to lose the effects of no till,” he says.

Watching, Waiting Paid

“We learned from the neighbor’s experience what to do and what not to do,” Greg says. In the fall they pull the strip-till bar at about 4 1/2 mph. “If you go faster the bed doesn’t form right,” Greg points out.

The knife cuts about 7 1/2 inches deep. With the 60-foot bar they can strip-till 300 acres a day. The strip-till tool follows the combine 2 or 3 days after the soybeans are harvested. “I’m not saying I’d stop the combine, but we know the benefits of strip-till,” Todd says.

Along with a better stand, strip-tilling allows the brothers to plant corn earlier. “We’re normally 20 percent done by the end of April,” Todd says. “Strip-till is the only thing that allowed us to do that. It buys us a day or 2 with earlier planting.”

Even though the brothers don’t apply fertilizer while pulling the strip-till tool with a 400-horsepower tractor, they still find the trip is economical. “We can do 250 to 300 acres on a single tank of fuel. That’s pretty economical for tillage and then we’re done. The planter’s the next pass,” Todd says. They leased a 400-horsepower tractor to pull the strip-till tool and later applied these payments toward the purchase.

Strip-Till Plus No-Till Pays

The brothers began no-tilling 2 decades ago to save fuel and conserve soil. On a 950-acre farm that has been no-tilled for 20 years, they began to see substantial improvements in the soil structure after 6 to 8 years. Before using strip-till, the brothers had been doing some chisel plowing to improve stands.

Strip-tilling provides more even stands and enables the Gustins to compete with their conventional tilling neighbors. Give strip-tilling a try, Todd suggests. Many fertilizer dealers do custom strip-tilling, and he recommends having a dealer do a couple rounds to see how it works on your farm.

Todd summarizes the results: “Stand counts have definitely improved even on straight no-tilling. The way I look at it, strip-tilling has given us conventional stand counts in a no-till world,” he says.