Compared to conventional tillage, Floyd, Iowa, strip-tiller Jon Gisleson says his best cornfields perform about the same with strip-till, while his poorer fields yield better.
“You’re definitely not going to take a yield hit with strip-till,” Gisleson says. “I’m able to conserve moisture, and I have a better seedbed than I’ve ever made before. And, I spend less money to put the crop in.”
Gisleson crops 800 acres on four farms in northern Iowa. His land surface is level to gently rolling with long slopes. He farms in soils that are loamy and silty and that drain moderately well to poorly.
Gisleson has been strip-tilling for 11 years and is considered a veteran among his peers. He strip-tills into soybean stubble in the fall to prepare the seedbed for spring corn planting, and uses a no-till drill to plant soybeans into corn residue.
There are some challenges. Gisleson says corn producers like to see the corn plant come up in the row, and it’s not as easy to see early on with strip-till unless the plant is truly centered in the row.
“If you’re crop-sharing or renting, it is a good idea to meet with your partner or landlord about strip-till,’ ” he says. “It is a different system than most are accustomed to.”
With strip-till, there is no need to use a starter fertilizer on corn, Gisleson says.
“That’s the advantage of having that concentration of phosphorus and potassium in the root zone,” he says.
In the fall, Gisleson covers an estimated 30 acres with his 1,000-gallon tank, applying a 4-13-10 liquid fertilizer solution 7 inches into the strip. The solution provides him 14 pounds of nitrogen, 42 pounds of phosphorus and 34 pounds of potassium.
Gisleson applies nitrogen in June after the crop has emerged. In terms of soil sampling, he takes samples in 10-acre grids. Before he began strip-tilling, he soil sampled every other year, but he recently cut back to every 4 years.
His time is now more compromised in the fall, but he still feels strongly about sampling his own fields.
“I’ve always done my own sampling. I don’t want somebody out there who doesn’t know the ground,” he says.
Gisleson no-tills annually into corn residue. It takes him about 5 days to strip-till his other 400 acres in the fall. He makes 7-inch-deep strips soon after harvest.
“For me, strip-till is for corn into soybean stubble,” he says. “I go out and plant into the strips in the spring, sidedress in June, spray a couple times and then I’m done until harvest.”
Gisleson prefers fall strip-till over spring because the seedbed has time to settle.
BIG TANK CAPACITY. Jon Gisleson uses a Blu-Jet LandTracker implement caddy to pull a 1,000-gallon liquid fertilizer tank. Behind the caddy is his Remlinger 12-row strip-till rig, set to 30-inch row spacing. (NRCS photo)
“It’s easier for me to keep my planter in the strip,” he said. “If the seedbed is too high, the planter can jump from side to side of the seedbed and miss that center-third of the strip, which is really important.”
He says the center-third of the strip can also be missed if the person planting isn’t the person who made the strips.
“You need someone familiar with the ground,” he says. “For example, you shouldn’t plant in the opposite direction the strips were made. Then you’re not mimicking what you did when you made the strip.”
Gisleson uses a Blu-Jet LandTracker multiple-use implement caddy to pull a 1,000-gallon liquid fertilizer tank. Behind the caddy is a Remlinger Precision Strip-Till 12-row, vertical-folding toolbar with 30-inch row spacing.
“It is important to get over the mindset that you have to use tillage equipment just because you have it,” he says.
Giselson says strip-till reduces stress levels, enables him to spend less time in the field and cuts fuel costs in half. But succeeding with the practice does take some patience.
“The management system is a little different,” he says. “You can afford to be patient and wait until fields are fit because it takes half the time to complete the process compared to conventional tillage. It drops the stress level.”
Gisleson says practicing patience is good advice for all producers, but especially with strip-till. With fewer passes in the field required, there’s no need to get out in the field too early.
“If you have your strips made in the fall, you will be able to get planting done easily in the spring,” he says. “Make sure conditions are right for planting.”