One of the often-mentioned benefits of strip-till is its adaptability to different regions, climates and soil types. That’s not to say success is universal, but advantages tied to soil strength and fertilizer retention can offer enough incentive to at least experiment with a system.
This is the approach that Pennsylvania-based farm equipment dealership Hoober Inc. is taking this year to investigate the value and potential of strip-till a region populated with no-tillers. With many of the dealership group’s customers farming near the Chesapeake Bay region, there is ongoing concern and an expectation that stricter fertilizer application rules are on the horizon.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the last winter that Pennsylvania farmers will be allowed to spread any manure between November and March,” suggests Ken Diller, Hoober’s precision farming network manager. “That will alter the way people farm. We wanted to be proactive with looking at alternatives, especially to be able to apply fertilizer beneath the surface.”
This past spring, the dealership set up a 30-acre test plot with different strip-till and no-till corn trials. The dealership used a custom-built, 4-row strip-till rig from Environmental Tillage Systems, which featured 32-inch cog wheels and modified trash wheels with tungsten carbide wear point tips.
One 10-acre plot was strip-tilled with no fertilizer applied. A second 10-acre trial was done where 85 gallons per acre of a suspension-type liquid fertilizer was applied 9 inches beneath the surface of the strip.
Diller says the suspension fertilizer was used to keep the nitrogen and phosphate from moving in the soil and the 9-inch depth was recommended by local agronomists to avoid seed burn. The third test plot was 10-acres of no-tilled corn with a broadcast application of the same nutrient package that was banded with the strip-till rig.
While yields will define the results of the experiment, Diller says in-season comparisons are bearing out the benefits of strip-till.
“We’ve seen a big difference in root structure when we dug up a few plants,” he says. “For the straight no-till with a topical fertilizer application trial, the roots spread out laterally, whereas with the strip-till trials, the roots were deeper and more fibrous with a lot of tentacles. I think that definitely helps with stands, but we’ll see if that translates to increased yield at the end of the season.”
How has adoption of strip-till grown in your region? Share your insights with me at (262) 777-2441, or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.