Talking with strip-tillers, I’ve come to expect a variety of reasons for why they decide to adopt the practice. Some say it’s to minimize erosion, while others want a more targeted approach to fertilizer application.
For Slinger, Wis., farmer Ricky Kratz, it was a matter of reliability. After several years of zone-tilling about 2,000 acres of corn with a Rawson system mounted on his planter, he found that the stress on the planter wasn’t worth it.
“I liked how it worked, but the problem was after about 1,000 acres, I’d break the center bearing because the cast bearings were too weak to hold the extra weight on the planter,” Kratz says. “We were looking for a way to take the weight off the planter, and I didn’t want to go to more intense tillage.”
Strip-till proved to be a viable option and Kratz purchased a 12-row Environmental Tillage Systems Soil Warrior unit in 2005. The first year, he saw a 23-bushel-per-acre increase in corn, compared to zone-tilling, which immediately sold him on the system.
Kratz still runs the same strip-till machine, but he also understands that it takes an inquisitive nature to evolve and improve his strip-till system. And a big part of that is asking questions: During a recent visit with Kratz on his 4,800 acre farm, he thought about what impact stratification could have on his strip-till operation.
He recently tested one of his fields and learned that 60% of the soil nutrients are in the top 6 inches. Kratz then compared this to a friend’s conventionally-tilled field, which revealed 50% of nutrients in the top 6 inches. Kratz is still analyzing the significance of this.
“I want to know what our percentages should be, and do I need to be using deep-tillage cog wheels or keep using smaller ones that I have on the strip-till unit?” he asks. “Right now, I don’t have anything to base those results off of, besides my friend’s tests.”
The thirst for knowledge is what drives Kratz to improve his strip-till system, whether it’s incorporating precision technology or tweaking his fertility program. We will be digging deeper into his family’s strip-till operation in the February 2014 issue of No-Till Farmer’s Conservation Tillage Guide.
Until then, share what questions you might have about your own strip-till operation. Call me at (262) 782-4480, ext. 441, or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.