Fertilizer practices can sometimes be a touchy subject for farmers, especially when debating the merits of one strategy over another. When it comes to developing a fertility program for strip-till, this much is clear — there is no perfect program.

But there may be an optimal plan for each strip-tiller’s own operation.

This is something Persia, Iowa, strip-tiller Bill Darrington understands, having been involved with the practice for nearly 30 years. Farming more than 1,000 acres of sloping ground in the western part of the state, Darrington relies on multiple fertilizer applications to ensure a healthy crop, while also keeping an eye on preserving soil health.

He calls himself a “hybrid” strip-tiller, utilizing deep banding fertilization practices associated with strip-till, while setting his planter up to compensate for extreme slopes of up to 20% in some areas. Using an 18-row Blu-Jet dual placement strip-till bar, Darrington deep bands 28% nitrogen about 7 inches deep with a front anhydrous knife, and then a rear tube applies a blend of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus at a shallower depth.

The applications follow 150-200 pounds of winter-applied ammonium sulfate and precede multiple foliar feedings of an array of nutrients to include NP&K and micronutrients.

“My program is complicated and I wish it was easier, but I’ve found what works best.”

One thing that has helped Darrington find his comfort zone is a willingness to listen and learn from others. This isn’t always easy, and in his part-time role as a crop consultant, Darrington is conscious of not forcing change on fellow strip-tillers.

“Just because I use liquid doesn’t mean you have to switch to liquid,” he says. “If you apply dry, I will suggest farmers make tweaks to their program to help maximize the benefits of their application and find the best fit for their farm.”

To learn more about Darrington’s strip-till system, join us at the 2015 National Strip-Tillage Conference in Iowa City, Iowa, this summer, where he will be presenting. Stay tuned for more details or visit www.striptillfarmer.com, contact me at (262) 782-4480, ext. 441, or send me an e-mail at jzemlicka@lesspub.com.