An Ontario study found that fall strip-till allowed corn to be planted 5 to 21 days sooner in heavy clay soil vs. conventional tillage.

In the fall of 2003, researchers started a demonstration project to see if a fall strip-till system would benefit corn growers on heavy clay soils. They wanted to know if strip-till would provide a wider window for planting corn in the spring, giving greater opportunities for nitrogen management within the strip-till system.

Crop rotations in heavy clay soils have suffered with poor spring planting conditions leading to continuous soybean production or narrow soybeans with occasional winter wheat rotations resulting in reduced organic matter and crop yields leading to a potential increase in greenhouse gas emissions from these practices.

Study Methods

The first year’s sites were established in November and December 2003. Treatments of strip-till, no-till and conventional till were located at a number of sites. Conventional tillage treatments were fall moldboard plowing or spring cultivation.

At two sites, the fields were monitored in the spring to determine the earliest date for which each system could be planted based on soil conditions. Nitrogen was applied at planting or sidedressed, depending on the site.

In another set of plots, all planting for strip-till and conventional tillage occurred at the same time. Various rates and/or timings of nitrogen application were made at appropriate times.

Rates of nitrogen were repeated at both planting and side dress timings. In one site, urea was applied pre-plant and incorporated through cultivation.

At the other site, UAN was applied 1 day after planting with a side dress applicator and then again at sidedress time.