Driving past local cornfields on my way to work nearly every day, I’ve see a wide range of plant colors and sizes this year, from head-high, dark-green stands to tiny, pale plants, drowning in excessive moisture. Many other farms in the Midwest have endured the same problems.

I wanted to get a closer look at this year’s crop, so earlier this month I drove through north-central Illinois and spent time with a pair of veteran strip-tillers who were happy to show off some healthy cornfields.

While the crops were thriving in similar field conditions — both farms have rolling ground and variable soil types — the strip-tillers in charge have distinctly different approaches to achieve their success.

Amboy, Ill., strip-tiller Jerry Henkel, who we feature in this edition, subscribes to a simple approach, using a rented 16-row DMI strip-till toolbar with modified mini-mole knives, and little else, for shallow placement of fall anhydrous on about 850 acres of strip-tilled corn.

Though he’s experimented with more traditional methods and deep placement of phosphorus and potassium in the strip, they’ve never proven beneficial to his operation.

“What we’re doing works on our farm and we’ve seen yields steadily increase since adopting strip-till more than a decade ago,” says Henkel, who average about 200 bushels per acre of strip-tilled corn.

Fifty miles northeast, I found a completely different but equally successful approach to strip-till on Trent Sanderson’s 1,000-acre strip-till corn operation.

He and his father run a 12-row John Deere 2510 strip-till rig in fall, applying a slurry blend of phosphorus and potassium, along with aqua ammonia (anhydrous injected into water) in the strip.

They intensely analyze data and crunch numbers to manage inputs and price out the per-acre benefit of strip-till. Since starting with strip-till in 2007, they’ve consistently hit 200 bushels or more on corn.

It was interesting to see such a contrast in strip-till methodologies, but showed there are many different paths farmers can take to achieve similar success.

With our first-ever National Strip-Tillage Conference only a week away, I expect to hear more about unique approaches strip-tillers are incorporating on their operations, some of which may be taking place only a few miles away from each other.

We hope to see you in Cedar Rapids on July 30-31, and I look forward to hearing your strip-till story there. Or call me at (262) 782-4480, ext. 441, or send me an e-mail at jzemlicka@lesspub.com