Published April 23, 2019 | By Mike Petersen
Here in the Northern Latitudes of the terrestrial body we find ourselves living on comes this time when North American farmers get all wound up, nervous, antsy and focused. The present day mentality is to plant everything in 10 days once the tractor pulls the planter loaded out of the yard and enters his first field. We know in many parts of the country the soil is only 49 degrees F. at 3 inches. At these what I call cold soil temperatures the helpful soil microbes are pretty much shivering and asleep. Those bacteria are absolutely essential to work on the organic products and the added nutrients in the seed trench, over the top or off to the side of the placed seed. We have seen with strip till a grower that follows that same tilled area with his planter (GPS guided) the soils are usually warmer by 1 to 7 degrees F., softer for the planter ride and then consistent seed depth and spacing. Having soils that are 49 versus Strip Tilled fields the zone is 55 or better. Planting in warmer conditions provides a condition for even germination with nearly every seed placed in the row, offering the seedling root a chance to grow longer and deeper to feed the baby plant and start every mornings photosynthesis cycle as the sun touches the green plant that erupts through the soil. BUT the calendar says it is April 20-something and we gotta go. I could give you the chemical breakdown of fertilizers and how the biochemical processes works better and induces switches in the DNA of every corn plant or soybean plant to give consistent growth, but those of you driven by the calendar – it makes no difference to you. For those of you that want to be sound conservationists and top notch growers to maximize your potentials – I applaud you for considering how the initial soil health and physical condition of the soil is taken into account. For you men and women will succeed and be the innovators and growers to enlighten your children and grandchildren to carry the banner of farming long into the days ahead.
We at Orthman urge a more scientific approach to this years planting plan. Hopefully the strip till tool is part of your program along with wise pre-plant fertility. As a soil scientist and one who loves to look below the soil surface with a view like a worm would see if it had eyes (fortunately I have two of them) and observing physical processes, evidence of biological activities and knowing that the interaction of microbes, roots, worms and other invertebrates I know allowing the soils to warm naturally and not getting ahead of all that is very wise.
One of the most interesting ideas that has come of the Soil Health movement here in the United States and Canada is slowing down to observe and pay heed to the life that goes on in the first 12 to 16 inches (30 to 40 cm) of your soil profiles. Working with the soils abilities to actively provide nutrients and sustainability for plant growth has never been a dumb idea, but being in a hurry can set you back more than you know. Contact an Orthman representative or me and we’d love to visit about the approach that works with the soil biological system – that being Strip Tillage.