Published January 30, 2020 | By Mike Petersen
I know I am visiting with a select number of growers and others who are interested in things of Strip Till. You growers that use strip-till for your pre-plant tillage/field preparation are considered by some as a niche group of farmers. For one (me) who has been in the group that have found the Strip-Till method as one of the smartest ways to minimize tillage and place a portion of the seasons nutrient package, offer a malleable soil environment for the young root system to expand and get fed, lets move forward. There are those who believe Direct Seeding is the epitome of “right” farming and Strip-Till is boorish and not politically correct for the environment and soil health.
[This 16 row Orthman 1tRIPr with tool bar mounted tanks are placing nutrients behind the shank and planter directly attached. Courtesy: Orthman Mfg.]
That is somewhat inflammatory and not founded. Why can I say such? After field researching the strip-till method since the late 80’s until today I can without reservation in most row crop farming on slopes of less than 7%, the Strip-Till method carried out with care stands right up near the very tippy top in yield potentials with very low erosion rates and preserving over 70% of the carbon in the soil profile. A large segment of why this conservation practice really works is the tying in of placing nutrients in the till zone down below the seed.With most of the strip-till implements on the market, dry and liquid nutrients can be inserted into the tillage operation. Growers that have combined dry products with liquid during their strip-till pass are putting products in two locations below the seed placement in a follow-up operation. Placing phosphates, potassium and nitrogen and maybe some micronutrients brings efficiency, minimizing trips, locating nutrients in the root pathway for early to mid-season growth potentials not normally seen. Why? A plant root system does not seek out nutrition because they neither have eyes, tongues, noses to smell or hands to feel, the roots must come in direct contact of compounds to better feed the crop. Scattering across the soil surface may be fast, easy and workable for the local Coop, yet those products that are not all mobile and subject to volatility, surface runoff, tie up with the organic materials, we have a problem. Why not put all of those materials in the soil where the roots are growing downward naturally to be in line to intercept? So both with a planter or drill and the strip-till unit a grower can make great advancements by placing nutrients to start the crop, take it into early season and on into mid-season well fed and making target goals on efficiency and production. Field research that I have been part of previously and presently has shown liquid nutrients placed with the seed, off to the side and below has many bonus effects. A couple-three or five of those are:
1. A larger initial root system
2. many more lateral roots to absorb water and nutrients
3. ability to overcome the normal mid-May stall-out period
4. due to placement, significant less sign of the phosphorus deficiency between emergence and third leaf stage
5. biological activity ramps up significantly on and around the root system.
It is absolutely imperative to start a crop off with fewer obstacles to overcome to reach the yield a grower is looking forward to when he/she sticks the snouts of the combine header into the field this coming fall.
Putting together a Strip-Till System that incorporates fertility placed below the seed is well founded and has many benefits I have written about here and others I did not speak of. Do not hesitate to call or write me or chat with our Territory Rep’s in regards to the placement of nutrients, products that will spark your crop to reaching your goals or anything else with this years crop. Along with what we are trying to inform you about compaction and its detrimental effects until we show and depict how strip till will add to your understanding pof good soil management; nutrients, placement both with the Strip Till implement and your planter are major steps in becoming proficient and profitable.