When visiting with strip-tillers, I’ll usually take stock of what precision technology and practices they’re using in their operation. And I’m always intrigued when strip-tillers tell me implement-guidance systems are among the precision tools they’ve tested or adopted.

Only 20% of strip-tillers are using implement guidance on their strip-till rigs, according to results from our first-ever Strip-Till Operational Benchmark Study, which will appear in-full, in the August issue of No-Till Farmer’s Conservation Tillage Guide.

But some suggest in the coming years, implement guidance could become a much more commonly used technology by strip-tillers.

“These are the farmers making multiple passes and it’s critical for them to get their seed right back into that strip, every time,” says Jason Pennycook, precision farming specialist with Johnson Tractor, in Janesville, Wis. “Strip-tillers are the biggest market out there for implement guidance.”

Pennycook highlighted the benefits of the technology — especially for strip-tillers — during a recent webinar presented by our sister publication, Precision Farming Dealer. He cites a study conducted by Kansas State University which analyzed seed placement in strip-tilled rows and the effect on corn yield. 

The 3-year study looked at the yield impact of planting directly into the center of a fertilizer strip, 3¾ inches off-center, 7½ inches off-center and 15 inches off-center. Results showed that the best corn yields were achieved planting within 3¾ inches of the fertilizer strip.

As Pennycook notes, two of the biggest benefits of implement guidance for strip-tillers are more accurate placement of seed, which equates to higher yields, and reducing fertilizer application overlap.

“I see more strip-tillers growing high-management corn, where they’re not just spreading fertilizer in the fall and making one application of nitrogen,” he says. “Farmers are applying pop-up with the planter, then spoon feeding nitrogen throughout the season.

“The straighter that farmer can have rows through the field, the less crop damage he’ll end up with because he can keep the implement online with guidance lines, without running over crops.”

Research is still somewhat limited on implement guidance, given that it’s a relatively new technology. And cost can be a deterrent, with top-end systems costing as much as $20,000.

The key to the success of the technology will be whether farmers will see enough proven payback to make the investment worthwhile.

What is your experience with implement guidance? Share your story by calling me at  (262) 782-4480, ext. 441, or send me an e-mail at jzemlicka@lesspub.com