There is no doubt that strip-till and precision farming go hand-in-hand.
Strip-tillers use RTK and variable-rate technology to get the most out of their inputs. Some planters are often equipped with devices that let farmers match seed-depth placement to soil type, and sprayers can regulate nutrient application by the drop.
But what about the strip-till unit itself? During a recent trip to eastern Nebraska, I visited with strip-tiller Brandon Hunnicutt, who longs for the day when he can take advantage of precision technology as part of his strip-till unit.
His hope is that manufacturers and researchers can develop on-the-go sensing tools for strip-till units that can measure everything from compaction to soil nutrients.
“It just makes sense,” Hunnicutt says. “If you are strip-tilling with a shank 8 inches in the ground and you can measure what’s going on down there, I think there’s a lot of advantages to be gained.”
Soil sampling certainly provides a snapshot of soil health, and Hunnicutt utilizes it to manage fertilizer application. He knows which field has 50 pounds of carryover nitrogen and where he needs to add more to meet a 250-bushel-per-acre, corn-yield goal in a particular field.
But having sensors on the strip-till unit could paint an even more precise picture of what’s going on underneath the soil surface. In theory, Hunnicutt says, strip-till unit sensors could let farmers gather soil-nutrient readings or measure compaction while they’re in the field building strips.
Strip-tillers could incorporate that data into their fertility plan to make sure they’re applying the right amount of nutrients in the right spot, planting the right crops or even using the best tillage methods.
“Maybe we can start quantifying the pros or the cons of strip-till and some of those challenges in the no-till situations,” Hunnicutt says. “Right now, technology tells us where we’re short with fertilizer or where we don’t need to apply any more. We’re saving money now. But if we can get sensors on the strip-till units, we’ll be able to fine-tune our application even more.”
With the rapid advancement of precision farming technology, it doesn’t seem to be so much a question of ‘if’ as it is ‘when’ sensing technology becomes a fixture on strip-till units.
Until then, what type of precision technology are you waiting for to further enhance your strip-till operation? Feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at (262) 782-4480, ext. 441 to share your thoughts.