Argyle, Iowa, grower Brian Klemme began twin-row strip-tilling corn in the spring of 2009 because he wanted to increase plant populations and spacing within rows and, hopefully, increase yields.
Klemme farms with his stepfather and an uncle, growing 1,100 acres of corn and 700 acres of soybeans. On 200 to 300 acres, Klemme has used 7½-inch row spacing on 30-inch centers, for corn on corn and corn after soybeans.
On irrigated, sandy ground he pushes the corn population to 35,000 per acre. On dryland acres he plants 25,000 seeds per acre.
“We want to place fertilizer in a zone in the spring because of the loss of fall-applied nitrogen due to large amounts of rain,” he says. “We don’t apply anhydrous ammonia anymore in the fall.”
Klemme’s strip-till rig consists of an Elk Creek caddy for a 6-ton Montag dry fertilizer skid, Yetter Maverick row units on a Moore-Built toolbar and Raven Precision equipment that controls the anhydrous ammonia.
He uses RTK for the 12-row toolbar and for the 16-row, twin-row planter with 7½-inch row spacing.
Klemme advises spring strip-tillers wait at least 10 days after applying anhydrous ammonia to plant corn.
“In 2009, we followed too closely with planting and the anhydrous burned off corn roots,” he says. “This year, we waited at least 10 days to plant.
“The twin-row, strip-tilled corn looks really pretty good as of mid-June,” he adds. “On low spots on our fields and in our area, the corn is yellow. But on the high ground, the corn is nice and green.”
A GOOD SIGN. Increasing the plant spacing produces more twin ears on the sweet corn that Scott Setniker of Independence, Ore., grows for processing. “The processors have said the ear size in the sweet corn that’s twin-rowed is really good,” he says.
Whatever row spacing strip-tillers use, Klemme recommends using RTK guidance and a strip-till rig and planter with the same number of rows.
Even with RTK, it’s possible to get off center after making many passes in the same field, he says.
“Getting off a little bit from the center of the strip-tilled berm in 30-inch rows would be a whole lot more forgiving,” Klemme says. “I was watching one side of the planter and the rows were on the centers, but the other side was off.
“But if I had moved, then the other half of the 16-row planter would have been off. That’s a problem that can happen with a 12-row strip-till rig and a 16-row planter.”
Scott Setniker of Independence, Ore., decided to try twin-row strip-tilled corn in 2010 after reading about it on the Internet.
He thought that using twin rows would create more space between corn plants, exposing them to more light. In addition to field corn, Setniker and his father, David, grow sweet corn for a processor in the area.
“I get more plants with twin ears of sweet corn by increasing the spacing with twin-row, 7½-inch row spacing,” Setniker says. “The processors have said the ear size in the sweet corn that’s twin-rowed is really good.”
In 2010, Setniker had twin-row, strip-tilled corn that yielded 225 bushels per acre. His best conventionally tilled corn on 30-inch spacing yielded 220 to 230 bushels per acre, and the average was 180 bushels per acre for conventionally tilled corn.
Setniker staggers the planting of sweet corn, green beans and peas for the food processor. After harvesting peas last summer, he planted the last of the sweet corn on July 1.
“It grew slowly because the summer was cold,” Setniker says. “It finally warmed up at the end of September.
“Moisture in strip-tilled corn was a bit of an issue last year. It was 28% to 32% for most of the harvest, and the moisture level of the strip-tilled corn was 3% higher across the board versus corn planted at the same time in conventionally tilled fields. I don’t know why there was a difference.”
When Setniker tried strip-till for the first time in the spring of 2010, he planted twin-row corn on 7½-inch centers, as well as corn on 30-inch row spacing. But last spring, Setniker reduced the amount of twin-rowed corn and he strip-tilled more corn on 30-inch rows.
Even with RTK, it’s a challenge planting corn right in the 10-inch-wide strip, he says.
“That’s why I planted more corn in single rows on 30-inch spacing,” Setniker says. “To meet the NRCS definition of strip-till, the strip may not be wider than 10 inches.
“I’m making a strip 8 inches wide and 8 inches deep. That’s why it’s a challenge to plant twin-row corn with my Monosem planter, where there’s just 7½ inches between the rows.”
Setniker has Dawn Equipment row units on a toolbar for strip-tilling. After a recent winter with lots of rain, Setniker made a shallow pass with the strip-till rig to open up and dry out the soil. Then he made another pass with the strip-till rig.
To cut fuel costs, Setniker would like to make just one pass with the strip-till rig instead of two. But that wasn’t possible last spring because fields were saturated and full of clods.
“Strip-till is still a work in progress,” Setniker says. “If we can go across the fields in the spring, running the strip-tiller shallow, the fields should be nice before we plant.”