It’s no secret that one of the reasons farmers transition to strip-till is for the potential yield advantages over other tillage systems.
While not always a guarantee, farmers at the very least tend to find consistency with emergence, stands and yields. But during the last decade, both strip-tilled corn and soybean yields have compared favorably to those harvested by no-tillers.
Recent data compiled for the 10th annual No-Till Farmer Operational Practices Benchmark study (published in the April 2018 issue of Conservation Tillage Guide) revealed a 17-bushel per acre advantage for strip-tilled corn during the last decade, including an all-time average high of 203 bushels per acre during the 2017 cropping year.
According to the report, No-Till Farmer readers who are strip-tilling corn have consistently reported the highest yields throughout the 10 years of the study. While it’s likely true that strip-till is commonly used on better-producing acreage and no-till corn often gets the nod on more marginal acres, strip-till corn has nonetheless averaged 177.6 bushels per acre over the 10-year study vs. 160 bushels per acre for no-tilled corn.
While not as drastic of a differential, strip-tilled soybeans edged no-till by about 2 bushels per acre on average since 2011, the first year the study began tracking strip-tilled soybeans.
So what is contributing to the yield advantage? It’s likely a combination of factors, says Keith Schlapkohl, a strip-tiller in Stockton, Iowa, who has made incremental improvements to his system that are inching most of his corn yields toward the 300-bushel mark.
He explains it’s not just one piece of equipment, strategy or input in his arsenal that is edging up his yields, but rather a mix of methods.
“It’s not cherry-picking an idea from one spot and saying that’s the magic bullet,” Schlapkohl says. “There are no magic bullets.”
You can read more about the trends and practices strip-tillers are putting to work on their operations in the 2017 Strip-Till Farmer benchmark study and stay tuned for an invitation to participate in the 2018 study soon.