I’ve yet to talk with a strip-tiller who claims to have a universal system that will work on any farm. And I expect I never will.
Certainly, there are aspects of anyone’s strip-till operation that can be adaptable, depending on acreage, crop rotation, soil types, climate, etc. But by all accounts, everyone’s system is unique to his or her farm.
When strip-tillers point out the secret to their success, the subtleties are often mentioned, as well as the most pain-staking and time-consuming aspects of their operation.
LaPorte City, Iowa, strip-tiller Dean Fehl is no different. He’s been strip-tilling since the mid-1990s, and his sons Ben and Brandt joined the operation several years later. The Fehls turned to strip-till to combat erosion problems, and as a more successful alternative to no-tilling corn into soybean stubble.
As they’ve added more acres, the Fehls have changed from a 12-row DMI strip-till rig to a 16-row Kuhn Krause Gladiator, but have otherwise remained loyal to their original system, rather than endlessly tweaking it.
The Fehls strip-till in the fall, applying the majority of their nitrogen in the strip and variable-rate broadcasting phosphorus and potassium. Nothing is applied with their 16-row John Deere planter, and they sidedress the balance of 28% nitrogen.
They rely on RTK guidance to build their berms and have realized the benefits of GPS through reduced fatigue after a long day in the tractor cab.
Dean Fehl says they’ve seen a double-digit increase in per-acre corn yield, although it’s hard to attribute all of that to strip-till alone.
“Simplicity is the key to what we’re doing,” Dean Fehl says. “I don’t think our system could be any easier than what it is. But that’s why we like it, and why it works for us.”
There are plenty of directions strip-tillers can take their system, but it’s not always easy to see the results of different management choices until it’s too late. I’ve talked with a number of strip-tillers who half-joked about going back in time to correct mistakes before they make them to save the time and aggravation.
The Fehls admit their system isn’t revolutionary, but it doesn’t have to be to be successful. This is something strip-tillers may want to keep in mind when contemplating how complex they want to get with their own equipment, fertility program or precision technology.
What’s the best advice you have for strip-tillers to simplify their system? Call me at (262) 782-4480, ext. 441, or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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