In catching up with a few strip-tillers during the last week or so, most say they’ve been enjoying a rapid and relatively smooth harvest. I hope that’s been the case for you as well.

Some say they’re anxious to move from the combine to the tractor to build fall strips and take advantage of accommodating field conditions. But getting strips built is only part of the post-harvest process, says veteran agronomist Mike Petersen.

At the 2015 National Strip-Tillage Conference, the lead agronomist at Moline, Ill.-based ANP, Inc. offered five tips to help strip-tillers maximize the potential of their fertilizer application.

  1. Apply 30-50% of your fertility needs with the strip-till rig. Many times, strip-tillers will opt to fall apply fertilizer because of unfavorable field conditions in spring.
  2. Be smart about what you’re applying. For dry fertilizer, consider ESN, or some type of coated product that will last. For liquid application in the fall, don’t apply too deep because it may be lost to the elements.
  3. Apply another 20% of fertilizer with the planter and divide the application — some with the seed, and some in a 2-by-2-inch placement to ensure more even distribution and access by plant roots.
  4. Listen to what your soil and tissue samples tell you and assess whether an in-crop sidedress or foliar application is wise.
  5. Match your root system with your strip-till system and get the right corn hybrid. Drought-tolerant hybrids are less common in the central and eastern Corn Belt, but work well if you have notoriously dry Augusts because their root system will go deeper into the soil profile and access water.

Above all, Petersen says, it’s critical to keep those fertilizer applications in the strip to give your crop the best chance at success. A recent study he worked on revealed a dramatic decline in yield the further away from the root zone fertilizer was applied.

A 4-inch offset resulted in a loss of up to 10 bushel per acre. A 6-inch offset led to a 16-bushel reduction, and an 8-inch offset resulted in a 20-bushel dip.

Learn more from Petersen in this edition’s feature story on understanding your corn plants form the ground up.

What are your top tips for strip-till fertilizer application? Share your insight with me at (262) 777-2441, or send me an e-mail at