On this edition of the Strip-Till Farmer podcast, brought to you by Yetter Farm Equipment, Ben Kron shares the keys to his record-breaking success.
The Evansville, Ind., farmer won the National Corn Growers Association 2021 National Corn Yield Contest’s strip-till, minimum-till, mulch-till, ridge-till irrigated class with nearly 391 bushels per acre. He also broke the state’s strip-till, irrigated corn yield record that same year.
The 2nd generation farmer takes us inside his strip-till operation and goes over the checklist for making sure his planter is set up to maximize yields. Kron also covers his nutrient management strategies, strip-building methods and lessons learned from strip-tilling.
The Strip-Till Farmer podcast is brought to you by Yetter Farm Equipment.
Yetter Farm Equipment has been providing farmers with solutions since 1930. Today, Yetter is your answer for finding the tools and equipment you need to face today’s production agriculture demands. The Yetter lineup includes a wide range of planter attachments for different planting conditions, several equipment options for fertilizer placement, and products that meet harvest-time challenges. Yetter delivers a return on investment and equipment that meets your needs and maximizes inputs. Visit them at yetterco.com.
Great to have you with us on another edition of the Strip Till Farmer Podcast, brought to you by Yetter Farm Equipment. Evansville Indiana's Ben Kron, won the National Corn Growers Association 2021 National Corn Yield Contest, strip till, minimum till, mulch till, rich till, irrigated class with nearly 391 bushels per acre. He also broke the state's Strip Till Irrigated Corn Yield Record that same year. How in the world did he do it? Let's find out. Here's Ben Kron.Ben Kron:
My name is Ben Kron. I live near Brownsville, Indiana in a very southwest part of Indiana. Me and my family, we actually farm about 2000 acres. We'd mess around with some strip till obviously, and a little bit of oak till and a little bit of conventional till, kind of do a little bit of everything down here. Our ground is kind of all over the place. We run from about a four to five CEC all the way up to about a 35 and sometimes it's in the same pass, so makes things a little challenging for us, but we do it what we can with itNoah Newman:
Now. Ben, how long have you been into farming? Are you a second generation farmer?Ben Kron:
Yes. My dad actually started the farm, so I'd be a second generation. My dad started our farm back in the eighties actually, back in that time there, where farming was pretty rough when he decided to start for some reason, out of insanity, I don't know. But yeah, and it's a family farm, so I guess, I'm 32 years old, so I guess I've been farming for about 32 years now, maybe 33, if you count when my mom was pregnant with me.Noah Newman:
Wow, that's hilarious. Well, tell us about your strip till origin story. When did you guys start strip tilling?Ben Kron:
I don't remember the exact year, three, four, maybe years ago or something like that. It always kind of caught our eye a little bit and I got doing some research and talking to different guys about it and it seemed to really make sense to us, just placing what we need right underneath the plant and kind of from there, it almost kind of sold us on it. If we can use the same amount or even less and get the same or more efficiency, obviously more efficiency out of it, why wouldn't we do that?Noah Newman:
Yeah, absolutely. It sounds like it's worked out well for you guys. You won the 2021 National Corn Yield Contest, Strip Till Irrigated Class with nearly 391 bushels per acre. And you also that year, correct me if I'm wrong, you also broke the Indiana Strip Till Irrigated Corn Yield Record as well, correct?Ben Kron:
Yes we did.Noah Newman:
That is a big time accomplishment. How much did strip till help you guys get there?Ben Kron:
I really think it's kind of the key into the whole thing. There's a whole lot to it and I think just from the moment that plant comes out the ground and then through the entirety of its life, it's got fertilizer sitting right there underneath it. It's not having to search for it, it's not having to branch out just to look for nutrients and when you got that sitting under there, I think that's a lot of the key of the whole thing.Noah Newman:
And do you use liquid fertilizer?Ben Kron:
Well, strip tilling has actually been dry fertilizer and then we ran a little bit of liquid with it and then we would come back and for the nitrogen aspect of it, which we did have some nitrogen in there too, but we would come back with Y drops and Y drop them.Noah Newman:
And how do you determine how much do you put on? Do you guys do any kind of soil testing or variable variable rates or what's your nutrient management plan like?Ben Kron:
No, I tell you we really don't variable rate with it at all. And our reason for that is we've worked with some guys on this and we put out the amount of fertilizer that we need for a certain bushel crop that we want to grow. Whether you're wanting to grow 180 or 200 or 240, we put out a amount of fertilizer to grow that and we've been able to do it running just a flat rate across the entire field. We really don't variable rate with it at all.Noah Newman:
Gotcha. And then what kind of equipment do you use? What's your strip fill bar?Ben Kron:
Actually I've been borrowing one from a friend for several years. I need to get one of my own, but we've been running a land lover bar.Noah Newman:
And how's that working for you, you like it?Ben Kron:
I love it. I really like those bars. They've done a good job. I haven't had any issues with them, so I can't complain.Noah Newman:
And then what do you use for a planter?Ben Kron:
I guess we're kind of little odd down here, but we run two white planters and then we run all New Holland tractors.Noah Newman:
A little bit of everything.Ben Kron:
Yeah, we catch it. Most guys they talk about green and red and we catch it from both sides.Noah Newman:
Yeah. Well, in your eyes, what's the key to maximizing yields or the best way to increase yields and how much does equipment play into that?Ben Kron:
Having your equipment in good shape obviously is an absolute key, especially your planter. You can go out there and put all the fertilizers down you need for a 5 or 600 bushel crop. If your planter isn't in shape, you're not going to get it and that's where it all starts. And even your script hill rigs and your tractors and everything else, if your equipment is not set how it should be, in a good shape, you're just not going to get there. I think it's an absolute must.Noah Newman:
Yeah. Can you think of any specific examples or something that people who are listening right now, might be not thinking about when trying to make adjustments to their planter? What are some key adjustments people can make?Ben Kron:
One thing I always like to do, even especially on a new planter, because you would think a brand new planter is going to be perfect coming out of the factory, and that's definitely not the case. We like to go and when we get even, we still do it every couple years after we do it the first time, and we'll take four by fours and set them underneath our gauged wheels on our planters and you can take a ruler or a stack of washers or something like that and set your planter down on that same set of four by fours across all 12, 16, 24 rows you got and make sure those things are actually adjusted to where they're all planting the same depth.
You would probably be surprised that there can be a half inch or even more difference across your planter just out of the factory from the depth adjustment not being set quite right. Making sure your brushes and your seed meters, if you got plates in your planter, something we don't really think about is checking your plates, make sure they're not warped, make sure they're not worn. You can get air leak when they get... When things are turning a lot of times down a field, you get a little wear on them when they get some miles on them, little bearings and things they can catch. And if you got chains on your planter yet, you'd be surprised. Just a little bit of roughness in that chain can make your planter go completely erratic.Noah Newman:
So it sounds like the little things really add up and make a difference.Ben Kron:
Yes, they do.Noah Newman:
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Now, do you build your strips in the fall or the spring?Ben Kron:
No, right now we've been doing them all in the spring. I'd like to do some testing with some in the fall. We've got some of our ground being a little bit heavier. It's hard for us in the spring to get it down and get it all closed back up by the time we need it to. If it's a little heavy underneath, especially with us being right by a river. Sometimes when you go through there, it can just make it a slit and it kind of stays there, so we'd like to take some of that kind of ground and start playing around with some fold, which would fold mean maybe trying some different kinds of fertilizers and things that would over winter better than maybe possibly over winter better than some other ones.Noah Newman:
In your opinion, what's been the biggest advantage to strip tilling, the biggest benefit you've noticed?Ben Kron:
Obviously everybody wants to stay yield first, so obviously the yield we see out of it is exceptional. We're saving money by strip telling, by being able to take, instead of spreading an X amount of fertilizer across the 30-inch row, now we're putting it right under the plant. We have made our fertilizer and especially right now with last couple years, as high as that's been, I think that's a major money saver for all of us. And at the end of the day, it's all dollars and cents and if we can take what we were doing and make it more efficient and make more money at it and save some money on top of that, I don't see how we can beat it.Noah Newman:
Yeah. That's a win-win. Any kind of growing pains that you went through when you switched to strip till or was it a pretty seamless transition?Ben Kron:
For the most part, it was pretty seamless. Just learning a new piece of equipment, you know how that can go. It could always be a little bit of trial and error and challenges, but if you got some guys around, you can call and ask some questions. Most of the time they can walk you right through anything you need. But for the most part, honestly, it really has been pretty seamless thing. I had concerns at first about being able to keep the planter on top of it and just making sure my AB lines and everything matched and I dropped a planter on the ground the first time and it's like it felt those spots, it grabbed right into them and was staying dead center and I was like, "Wow, well this is going a lot better than I thought it might."Noah Newman:
Yeah, sounds like it went well right off the bat now. So I'm assuming you strip till corn, do you no-till soybeans or how does that work with your rotation?Ben Kron:
A lot of times we do no-till our soybeans, but we've got a chopping corn head, so we've been trying to figure out residue management because when you got... Especially if you're averaging 200, 240 or even higher bushel corn, that's a lot of fodder you leave on the ground. And then you take a chopping head, you dice it up and it makes a real nice mat over winter. And we've had some issues trying to get things dried out. This fall, we did take a disc lightly to a lot of our corn stalks just to try and get them worked and moved around some and see if that helps. Trying just different things to try and deal with that.Noah Newman:
Anything new you're looking to implement in 2023 or in the years to come? Any kind of new technology or equipment or strategies you're thinking about using?Ben Kron:
We are looking for a different planter and a couple tractors right now and we all kind of know how that market is and there's a little bit of a challenge there, so we're keeping an eye out for some tractors and a new corn planter. And then something as far as fertilizer this year, we've completely switched away from potash, went to potassium sulfate. I've had some friends of mine, we've been doing some testing and trial and things and I think that's going to be a big thing for us this year is switching over to the potassium sulfate. I'm hoping we're going to really see a lot out of that. And then other things, there's always something I feel like, and sometimes it's not always on the tip of my tongue.Noah Newman:
Yeah, always something new to try, the potassium sulfate, that's a pretty big switch. What was the motivation for that?Ben Kron:
We've gone years and years and years of spreading potash and on my own, I did a two or three year trial of just going out and trying to put as much potash down as we can and keep doing it, keep doing it. And the numbers just weren't moving like I thought they should, A lot of guys, they try to slow release, I think is the favorite word of the industry of, it's slow release. Well, I guess if it never releases, it'd make it pretty slow release. And so I was getting kind of tired of not seeing anything move and I had talked to some guys and different friends and things about it and I said, "You know what, I think we're just going to jump ship and make the switch." And I'm hoping from there, I'm hoping sometime next year, I can talk to you again and I can tell you that it worked.Noah Newman:
Yeah, I hope so. Yeah, we'll plan on meeting back up for a conversation next year at this time. I think that pretty much covers it. Any other tips or pieces of advice you want to add in case there's a first time strip tiller listening or maybe a veteran strip tiller who's looking to learn something new.Ben Kron:
For the new guys, the guys out there wondering and thinking about it, all I can say is, do it. You're not going to regret it. Just go and do it. And for the veteran guys out there, if you've been running the same mix for the last 10 or 15 years, try throwing something different there. Try something different with it. Something you haven't done before, whether you switch from your potash, your potassium sulfate, or go from DAP to MAP or MESE, or even throwing something with maybe a little bit of boron or something like that in there. Make sure you're playing around with your different depths. If you've been to at the same depth for 10 years now, maybe try playing with some depths again to make sure that you're still in the right spot and where you think you need to be at.Noah Newman:
And that'll wrap things up for another edition of the Strip Till Farmer Podcast, brought to you by Yetter Farm Equipment. Great stuff from Ben Kron. We really appreciate him taking the time to join us during a busy time of his year. And as always, thank you the listener for tuning in. Until next time, for all things strip till, head to striptillfarmer.com. Have a great day.
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