This summer, I’ve had several farmers contact me looking for local strip-till resources to provide some first-hand advice on equipment setups and fertilizer application strategies.
In most cases, the farmers were brand new to the practice and looking to pick the brains of successful strip-tillers for advice and ideas. During my conversations, some of the reasons given for wanting to explore strip-till were more effective residue management, erosion control and targeted nutrient application.
All three were motivations for Palmer, Neb., farmer Clare Kurz, who adopted strip-till more than a decade ago on his 2,000-acre corn and soybean operation. After experience with no-till, ridge-till and conventional tillage, he hadn’t found a compatible practice for his twin-row system, on his primarily sandy soils.
“Twin-row and strip-till have given us a combination of banding fertilizer, reducing erosion and improving soil structure that has contributed to a 20-bushel increase in corn yields and 8-10 bushels per acre with soybeans,” Kurz says.
He switched from 36-inch single rows to 36-inch twins, with their twin-rows about 8 inches apart. Using two 12-row Monosem twin-row planters and a 12-row Schlagel strip-till unit, Kurz has been able to more effectively manage residue by switching out the stock row cleaners on all three pieces of equipment, and installing Groff row cleaners to help clear residue.
Both planters have 12-inch row cleaners and the strip-till rig has larger 16-inch versions. The spiked wheels grab and release residue, which is a simple but effective setup that has improved seed-to-soil contact, Kurz says.
“They run nice and close to row unit, so they are moving trash consistently and we use Timken bearings instead of ball bearings, which helps with reliability” he says. “We had more of a blade setup in the past, but those would throw trash into the other row units, whereas our current system kind of windrows over the residue because of their shape and then releases it in a better position.”
Overall, Kurz has his entire operation in a more sustainable position since making the switch to strip-till. He recalls when he ridge- and conventional-tilled, there was minimal earthworm activity underneath his soils.
Today, he can dig into nearly any field and find a group of microbial activity-enhancers coursing through the soil.
What was your primary motivation for adopting strip-till? Share your insights with me at (262) 777-2441, or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.