Fall strip-till continues to be more popular than spring strip-till, according to the 12th annual Strip-Till Farmer Strip-Till Operational Benchmark Study. 

45.2% of strip-tillers made their strips in the fall, while 33.1% waited until the spring and 21.7% said they did both in 2023. 19.2% refreshed fall strips in the spring, up nearly 9 percentage points from both 2022 and 2021.   

“Some make strips in both the fall and spring because of timing,” says Michael Petersen, former NRCS soil scientist and independent consultant with over 35 years of strip-till research experience. “Maybe they get weathered out, and others find that there is a benefit for whatever their spring crop is going to be, especially if it’s going to be planted a little bit later. Now, if you go down into the southern states like Florida and Texas, there’s a lot more mixing and matching, some in the spring and some in the fall.”  

Tony Vyn, former Purdue University cropping systems professor and Strip-Till Farmer Hall of Famer, says he’s not surprised that many strip-tillers make strips in the spring.

“My preference has been fall strip-till historically, but I’ve accepted spring strip-till if circumstances call for it or if it’s too wet,” Vyn says. “As you move toward sandier soils, it’s possible to get satisfactory results with spring strip-till, especially if you have a good systematic drainage system.”

Strip-Till Farmer asked growers in the Corn Belt, Northern Plains and Lake States about the motivations behind the timing of their strip building. 

“It seems like strips made in the fall warm up faster in the spring,” says Charles City, Iowa, strip-tiller Grant Stewart. “There is better water infiltration from rain and melting snow as well. We’ve had wet springs where we couldn’t plant on conventional or no-till ground because it was too wet, but the strip-tilled ground was firm enough to drive on and dry enough to plant.”

“Making strips in the fall allows me to apply fertilizer, break up compaction and prepare a great seed bed for the upcoming year,” says Carleton, Neb., strip-tiller Mike Schardt.

“Spring strip-till works better with my soils,” says Albany, Wis., strip-tiller Randy Bump. “I want the corn residue to break down more in the fall. I’ve tried fall strip-till, but it left a lot of lumps in the soil with the clay content on our hills. Plus, I don’t want to lose nutrients over the winter in our sandy soils. I don’t want to apply a ton of nitrogen (N) in the fall and not have all of it there in the spring.”

Click here for more Strip-Till News.