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What Are Some Guidelines for Going to a Strip-Till Program?

Mar 14, 2013

Question: With the lack of soil moisture, we have been talking about doing a strip till program this spring. We set up our fields this past fall for strip till when applying our anhydrous. What are some things to watch for when doing a strip-till program?

Answer: We don’t know what system you’re coming out of—whether you’re conventional till or no-till—but there are some things everyone has to give consideration to when they go to a strip-till system.

For one, as a new strip tiller you have to know how to manage weeds. You have to get a handle on weed management, whether that be you or your retailer. Someone has to be in charge of keeping weeds under control, so you don’t have a green jungle out there when it’s time to plant.

If your fertilizer dealer has a lot of strip-till customers, that probably won’t be an issue. If he doesn’t, you may need to check around. You don’t want someone to go out there with a sprayer set on auto steer to spray an herbicide and run over your strips with a truck and pack down your strips every 60 to 90 feet. With some of these applicators, they can put in wheel-track compaction and that will give you problems.

If you’re doing your own product application, you will need to manage winter annuals. If this is your first year with strip tillage you probably won’t have a lot of winter annuals starting out, but they’ll start showing up in the fall once you stop tilling.

Another consideration is when you’re planting you have to stay on that strip, and you’ll get better results with RTK auto steer. You can reuse those AB lines from last fall. If you didn’t lay down those strips last fall with auto steer, it’s easier to strip till if your planter matches up with your strips. Whatever you can do to stay on that strip is important—you don’t want to drift. You probably also will need a row cleaner to make sure you’re cleaning that strip, taking out any root balls and dirt clods.

Correct down pressure is really important in strip till. You’ll need to set your down pressure so you keep the planter in the ground, and that can be tricky if you drift off the strip. That planter may want to come out of the ground.

In the Odell area there’s a lot of Bryce, Swager and Ashkum soil types and sometimes in the fall, after a drought like we had in 2012, those soils can hunker down so tight that when you strip till in them they can bust out some pretty decent-sized chunks that look like baseballs or watermelon rinds. If you have a really rough and cloddy strip come spring due to a lack of moisture and freezing and thawing, I would abort your plan because your soil is just not in good enough shape for strip till. If that’s the case, bring in your soil finisher and work the field. Whatever you do, you want a good seedbed to plant into this spring.

Common methods of conservation tillage
After a fall harvest and before the spring planting season, soil is typically cultivated so it can become more fertile and welcoming for plant growth. All farmers practice at least one type of tillage method. Tillage was first done hundreds of years ago through manual or animal labor. Today, farmers use tractors and can choose from a number of different tillage machinery. Recently, conservation tillage has become more popular, including no-till and strip till

Steps to Strip-Till Success (Part 1)
Prepare the field before converting to strip-till to set the stage for higher corn yields. You can switch to strip-till for all the right reasons but work against the benefits with a lax approach to soil preparation. The appeal of strip-till is that it offers a profitable and more environmentally sound alternative to conventional tillage. It involves tilling narrow strips and building berms, or small ridges, 3" to 4" high.

Steps to Strip-Till Success (Part 2)
Prepare the field before converting to strip-till to set the stage for higher corn yields. 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.


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