Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to spend a few days visiting several strip-tillers in eastern Nebraska, in the aftermath of severe storms that pummeled the area. Driving along the county roads between Lincoln and Omaha, a common sight was washed out areas in farm fields.
Yutan, Neb., farmer Kody Karloff’s crops were not immune to the effects of the spring downpours. But walking into one of his strip-tilled corn-on-corn fields the morning after more than 2 inches of rain fell the night before, he observed that the impact was far less damaging than it would have been in prior years.
One of the reasons Karloff moved from no-tilled corn to strip-till 2 years ago was to improve water infiltration on his 3,200 acre corn and soybean operation. With 80% of his farm under irrigation, Karloff says being able to preserve moisture is critical throughout the growing season.
“Holding water in the soil is the name of the game around here,” he says. “Usually, it takes going into the field with a ripper to get that compaction layer out. But I don’t want to go 12-13 inches deep across the whole field when I can make strips 7-8 inches deep that facture a small area of soil to hold and store that moisture.”
Increasing his soil’s water absorption rate is one of early benefits Karloff has seen since moving to strip-till, along with more consistent plant emergence. With back-to-back years of above average spring rainfall, he says it’s been a good test from Mother Nature.
“I’ve really been able to see how my strip-tilled soils will hold up after planting,” he says. “We had one field hilly that I had strip-tilled last fall and freshened in the spring that got 2½ inches of rain in a day. I never saw even a trickle off that field, whereas in the past with no-till, there would have been some runoff. The emergence still looks strong and consistent, too.”
This past fall, Karloff used a pull-type 12-row Kuhn Krause Gladiator to build berms and then ahead of planting, ran a mounted 16-row Dawn Pluribus rig to refresh the strips. He says being able to run the shank-style machine in the spring, especially over his hills, certainly helped water infiltration.
“In the past with no-till, I had a hard time getting good consistent emergence and stands because of different soil temperatures and moistures,” Karloff says. “It never seemed to quite work or be that perfect time. Even with the rain we’ve had this year, my planted fields have help up better.”
How are your strip-tilled fields absorbing moisture this spring? Share your insights with me at (262) 777-2441, or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.