Spring planting is off to an encouraging start in many areas after a prolonged stretch of wet weather, especially in the Midwest. Last week, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey estimated that about 13% of the state’s corn had been planted.

But as he noted at the 2015 National Strip-Tillage Conference, Northey re-emphasized the advantages that conservation-tillage adopters have this time of year with keeping soil structure intact, reducing runoff and increasing water infiltration.

As he states in a recent Radio Iowa article, “It does save you some dollars as far as cost of tillage. But it also holds that soil in place a little bit better. Most folks feel like it will add some biological activity to the soil if you don’t till it.”

Of course, not everyone is in the field yet. Talking with Murdock, Neb., strip-tiller Mark Luetchens, his planter is still parked as the area has weathered a rainy stretch. However, Luetchens was able to get out and build spring strips on his 750 acres of corn with a 16-row Wako strip-till rig.

Adopting the practice about 5 years ago, one of the primary benefits he’s seen is a reduction in fertilizer application costs since switching from spraying in the spring to deep banding his phosphorous, potassium and nitrogen about 6 inches.

“Switching from liquid to dry, we’ve probably saved about $15 per acre,” Luetchens says. “Getting that fertilizer underneath the group was the most appealing part of strip-till for me, and not losing it to runoff.”

Farming all dryland acres, Luetchens says moisture can be a commodity throughout the growing season, and getting corn plants off to a strong start is essential. As one of the few adopters of strip-till in his area, Luetchens says he’s often able to plant earlier than other nearby farmers.

However, one potential challenge he is looking out for is if strips dry out too much. “One thing I’m curious to hear more about from other strip-tillers is whether they’ve had any emergence problems because the strip is too loose,” he says.

 While Luetchens has seen a couple of problem areas pop up in his farm in terms of emergence, he wonders if it could be due in part to the amount of down pressure he uses to on his planter, or the amount of tractor horsepower (450) he uses to pull his strip-till rig.

“It’s something I’ll want to watch, because I’ve heard of other farmers having emergence issues if strips get too dry,” he says.

What is your advice for maintaining an ideal strip for spring planting? Share your insights with me at (262) 777-2441, or send me an email at jzemlicka@lessitermedia.com.