Increasing yields isn’t always the top priority for strip-tillers. But whether it’s the primary objective or a secondary benefit of a well-rounded system, there is rarely a singular update or adjustment that a farmer can make that will consistently add bushels.
“It’s not cherry-picking an idea from one spot and saying that’s the magic bullet,” says Stockton, Iowa, farmer Keith Schlapkohl. “There are no magic bullets.”
Strip-tilling since about 2010, Schlapkohl has made incremental improvements to his system that are inching the majority of his corn acres toward 300-bushel yields. “Have I averaged that across the farm yet? No,” Schlapkohl says. “I’ve seen probably 30-40% of my yield monitor maps at that level right now.”
While some strip-tillers can point to a management decision that initially increased their corn yields by double-digits, more often it’s going to be a culmination of “the little things” that lead to yield stability and consistent growth.
For Schlapkohl, it’s been what he calls a “reallocation of resources.” This includes a reduction in insecticide and pesticide applications (using reverse-osmosis water in his sprayers), rigorous tissue testing for micronutrients and timed foliar feeding of nitrogen.
His advice for his fellow strip-tillers is to avoid doing the same thing year after year. Add some things, but realize that something can be thrown away.
“The plan that I put together doesn’t cost me any more than the guy that goes to the co-op, puts the anhydrous down, buys the biotech seed, flies the fungicide on and harvests the crop,” Schlapkohl says. “I will go across my crop 5 or 6 times, but each one of those passes will be paid for. It’s allotted, but I take money from someplace in the program that I had been doing and reallocating my resources so that at the end I don’t spend any more money.”
Hear more from Keith on his systems approach in our recent Strip-Till Farmer podcast, “Strip-Till Secrets to Achieving High Yields.”
What is your most effective method for seeding cover crops in your strip-till operation? Share your story with me at (262) 777-2441, or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.