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Steps to Strip-Till Success (Part 2)

October 19, 2009
By: Sara Schafer, Farm Journal Media Business and Crops Editor

Editor's Note: This is a continuation of Steps to Strip-Till Success (Part 1).

Weed control. If you switch from conventional tillage to strip-till, you may need to manage winter annual weeds in the fall (just as in no-till) because you won't be controlling them with spring tillage.

"If your field has a history of winter annual weeds, it's wise to treat them in the fall,” Baer says. "Winter annuals don't show up as much the first year you strip-till. But after three or four years, populations take off.

"A fall herbicide treatment is pretty economical,” Baer continues. "Several products kill all three of the primary winter annuals: henbit, chickweed and marestail. In the spring, after the weeds have been growing all winter, they'll be ten times as difficult to control.”

In the spring, you will want to add a burndown herbicide to your residual product, Baer adds.

In continuous corn, if harvest is late and some ears fall off, you may wind up with volunteer corn in the following crop. "Although this situation doesn't happen often, volunteer corn could be an issue if you're growing Roundup Ready hybrids back-to-back,” Baer says. "The only solution would be to switch to a LibertyLink hybrid.” You can minimize the risk by scouting fields and prioritizing which ones need to be harvested first.

If you're converting from conventional tillage to strip-till, you will also need to spend a little more effort on disease management because disease organisms overwinter in corn residue. "In the Farm Journal Corn College demonstration plots, we found two to three times as much disease in the strip-tilled corn as in the plowed ground,” Ferrie explains.

"Disease threats vary by region; a major one here in central Illinois is gray leaf spot,” Ferrie continues. "But disease is not a big deal if you understand the situation and manage around it. Select hybrids with higher disease pressure in mind. Plan to scout fields to determine whether a fungicide is needed.”

Continuous corn. When strip-tilling or using any other tillage system, continuous corn is tougher than a corn–soybean rotation.

"Successfully strip-tilling continuous corn depends on your location,” Ferrie says. "In northern latitudes, with a great deal of residue, it is a challenge—you have to fight a lot of residue in the spring because less of it decomposes in the fall, and the residue increases disease pressure. In southern latitudes, strip-tilling and no-tilling continuous corn is easier.”

In one field of continuous corn, the Endresses found strip-till yields were not keeping up. "So we tilled the field,” Tom says, "pulling the same type of ripper tool we had used in conventional tillage. In those days, our tractor struggled to pull it; but after strip-tilling for a few years, it walked right through.

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