Flexibility is a big benefit strip-tillers often point to when adopting the system, and timing berm-building to match field conditions is essential to creating an ideal seedbed.
That bears out with the results of the 3rd Annual Strip-Till Operational Benchmark Study results, which revealed that more than one-third of farmers strip-till in both the spring and the fall. (Look for the full report on the 2016 study in the Summer issue of No-Till Farmer’s Conservation Tillage Guide).
But there are also those farmers who have transitioned from one season to the other. Starting out with a fall program about 10 years ago, Bloomington, Ill., strip-tiller Jason Lay made the switch to a spring program 5 years ago.
Initially strip-tilling corn-on-corn, Lay struggled with residue management in the fall and also with being able to build strips in a limited window after harvest and before the winter. Another challenge he faced was potential nitrogen (N) loss with fall-applied anhydrous in the strip.
“From the point when we made that application in fall until when that N was needed — typically post pollination or at the end of June — there was a risk of losing it,” Lay says. “By pushing out applications to later in the season, moving to a liquid application program and making that first application just ahead of planting, we’ve reduced a lot of that risk.”
The other concern that Lay had with fall strip-till was erosion. In 2006, he encountered a January thaw of the top 3-4 inches of his strip-tilled field, followed by a 7-inch rain that washed out the 8-inch wide strips he’d built that fall.
Lay is also accomplishing the goals he set when he made the transition from a fall to a spring strip-till system — higher corn yields and lower N costs. The switch has contributed to a 15% reduction in N application costs and a 10% bump in yield.
Have you changed the timing of you strip-till system? Share your insights with me at (262) 777-2441, or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.