Strip-tillers take a lot of pride in the planning and preparation that comes with the farming practice.

More and more, strip-tillers I talk with are paying closer attention to managing seed populations, variable-rate fertilizer application and soil health. Precision technology is certainly assisting them with improved accuracy and regulating input costs.

But it’s impossible to account for every variable in every field that can influence yields. These are some reasons why strip-tillers gravitate toward on-farm research — especially testing different combinations and amounts of fertilizer applied at different times of the year.

Illinois strip-tiller Mike Bland has 6 years of strip-tilling under his belt, but admits he has a long way to go. He isn’t afraid to tinker with machinery and tweak his fertility program to include regular soil sampling, and adhering to variable-rate fertilizer application recommendations.

As you’ll read about in this issue’s feature story, Bland has a plan for dramatically reducing fertilizer application, but he’s also come to expect the unexpected in his strip-till operation.

Though he primarily strip-tills corn, Bland had a late opportunity several years ago to try strip-tilling soybeans. Although the field was prepared for corn with potash broadcast in the winter and only liquid ammonium phosphate applied in the strip, Bland opted to plant soybeans anyway.

He admits he didn’t know what to expect, but the results were a pleasant surprise. According to Bland, the field yielded more than 60 bushels per acre of soybeans for the first time.

“That really opened my eyes and I became a believer that it could work, especially since we went into planting those soybeans without much of a plan,” he says.

The positive outcome encouraged Bland to further his experimentation with strip-tilled soybeans and he’s looking to add more acres in the future. While he’s still refining his strip-tilled corn operation, Bland says he sees potential in incorporating some of the same  approaches for fertilizing and planting with soybeans.

Of course, Bland may not be where he is today if he hadn’t initially decided to plant those soybean seeds in the strip.

“It was worth taking the chance and if we can get the fertilizer efficiency to work for soybeans like it does for corn, we may do a lot more of that in the future,” he says.

What calculated chances have you taken in your strip-till operation and what were the results? Share your experience with me by calling (262) 782-4480, ext. 441, or send me an email at