Growers express interest in strip till methods during Big Iron 2009

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Published October 3, 2009 | By admin


By DALE HILDEBRANT, Minnesota Farm Guide 9/23/2009


WEST FARGO, N.D. – A good crowd flocked out to the Big Iron demonstration area during the first two days of the show to learn more about the benefits of strip tilling and to observe different strip till machines in action.


The program on Tuesday, Sept. 15, featured using strip till for corn production with 10 different manufacturers demonstrating their machines in corn stubble, while the following day the emphasis was on using strip till for soybeans and sugar beets with the implements working on wheat stubble.


Strip till benefits

Greg Endres, NDSU Extension crop specialist at the Carrington Research Extension Center, outlined the results of two years of strip till trials at the center when compared to conventional and no-till practices.


In the case of corn, conventional and strip till plots seemed to have an edge in both plant establishment and earlier silking date when compared to no-till methods. As far as yields, conventional tillage had the highest yields, with about a 2 percent advantage over the strip till practices, while strip till out yielded the no-till methods by about 5 percent, which Endres noted isn’t really a significant amount.


As far as soybeans, there is a bit more of a significant trend in the data from two years, with the strip tilling showing about a 9 percent yield increase over the conventionally planted soybeans.


If a grower does decide to start a strip till program, NDSU Extension soil scientist Dave Franzen advised them to have a plan to fall back on if conditions in the fall don’t allow strip tillage.


Franzen’s work has shown that fall strip tillage works fairly well, but spring strip tillage doesn’t work as well, especially on the heavier soils.


This was proven in the fall of 2008 when it was just too wet to perform strip till operations and delaying strip tillage until the spring of 2009 didn’t prove to be a good practice. Therefore a grower needs an alternative plan to fall back on if fall strip tillage isn’t possible.


Growers need to look beyond differences in yields when deciding to embark upon a strip till program, according to Jodi DeJong Hughes, the strip till expert from the University of Minnesota Extension Service.


I love strip till. Why? Because of improved water infiltration in the soil, building up or at least maintaining the organic matter that you already have, and reducing erosion from wind, water and tillage, she said.  There are several benefits to strip till, but it does take a little bit more management.


The question about cutting back on fertilizer rates with strip tillage always comes up in conversations on the topic. DeJong Hughes told the group nitrogen rates should never be cut in a strip till system. However, phosphorus and potassium rates can be adjusted downward by as much as one-quarter to one-third without any loss in yield when the fertilizer is being applied with a strip till implement.


If you cut nitrogen rates and can claim that your yields weren’t affected, then I would have to say that you were probably over applying nitrogen to begin with, she said.


Strip till in sugar beet rotations


Sugar-beet producers in the region have expressed an interest in using strip till practices, especially since the trash between the sugar-beet rows might play a role in reducing blowing soil on newly emerged sugar-beet fields. This blowing soil can often cut the beets off and force the grower to replant the stand.


Research work at the USDA-Ag Research Service Northern Plains Research Lab has been ongoing since 2002 regarding using strip till production practices with sugar-beets in the Sidney, Mont., and Williston, N.D., areas. According to Bart Stevens, research agronomist at the lab, they have found that when strip tillage is compared to conventional tillage on sugar-beets there are some positive things taking place.


Some of the findings include:

– the yield levels are similar;

– sugar content is equal or higher;

– input costs are lower due to fewer field passes, which save significant time and fuel;

– seedling protection from blowing soil is greater;

– snow capture is more even; and

– the environmental impacts from raising sugarbeets are reduced.


The studies were conducted under sprinkler irrigation with a fairly heavy clay loam soil in the Sidney area. The study in the Williston area was performed on lighter, sandy loam soil that was also under sprinkler irrigation.


Financial help may be available. Hal Weiser, with the Natural Resources Conservation Service office in James-town, N.D., said there are some cost-sharing programs available under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), for initiating a strip till program on farms. The rate of payback varies for different areas and Weiser encouraged growers to contact their local NRCS office for more information on the various cost sharing programs available.


The entire educational sessions are available for viewing on the Farm & Ranch Guide Web site as well as video of the 10 strip tilling machines that took part in the demonstrations.


In addition, introductory statements by each of the manufacturers are available on the Web site as well. These statements highlight the features of each of the strip till implements. This information is available at:





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