Univ. of Minnesota Researcher Speaks to Promising Results of Strip-Till

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Published February 18, 2007 | By admin


Dr. Jeff Vetsch Offers Remarks to Northern Plains Farmers — January 2007


Strip tillage can perform as well as conventional tillage
By Donna Farris, For Lee Agri-Media
Friday, January 19, 2007 9:00 AM CST


Minnesota tests are indicating that strip-tillage can produce corn and soybean yields just as high as conventional tillage, said Jeff Vetsch, assistant scientist at the University of Minnesota Extension Southern Research and Outreach Center at Waseca, Minn.


“Greater than 40 or 50 site years show that strip-tillage can perform just as well as conservation or conventional tillage, and is a good alternative as far as a method to save trips and save fuel. And yet it performs agronomically just as well as conventional tillage,” he said.


Vetsch presented the findings at recent Strip-Tillage Expos held by University of Minnesota Extension at research sites in Lamberton and Waseca, Minn.


“Because of its cooler climate and shorter growing season, no-till does not perform as well in Minnesota”, Vetsch said.


“The microbial activity does not break down as much residue as in warmer climates,” he said.


“Minnesota researchers have studied strip-tillage over the past 10 years because it seemed to be a viable alternative to be environmentally conscious with residue management without paying a yield penalty”, Vetsch said.


In strip-tillage, only the strips of soil where rows are to be planted are tilled. This tills the soil where seeds are planted and moves residue away so the tilled ground is warmed more quickly in the spring and plants get off to a good start.


While strip-tillage has not been adopted on a large scale in Minnesota, there’s more interest in this practice because of today’s higher fuel costs.


“Anything to reduce trips across fields and control input costs,” Vetsch said


Manufacturers are designing equipment specifically for strip-tillage, whereas many early adopters of strip-till 10 years ago made their own rigs.


One study at Waseca involved enough plots to add up to a 31-site-year average. Corn yield following soybeans was 170 bushels per acre in strip-till, compared to 161 in no-till, 171 in a one-pass field cultivation system, and 174 with “chisel-plus,” or conventional tillage system including chisel or disk ripping and one or two passes with a field cultivator in the spring.


“Strip-till hangs in well with one pass and is very close to chisel-plus,” Vetsch said.


Average yields in strip-till were consistently nine to 10 bushels higher than no-till test plots.


Some may wonder if strip-till can yield 200-bushel corn, and the answer is “yes,” Vetsch said.


In the seven highest yielding sites, 205 bushels per acre was achieved in strip-till, compared to 197 in no-till, 204 with one-pass and 207 with chisel-plus.


The studies found that starter fertilizer resulted in better earlier growth and higher yields.


For the past two years, U of M Extension has conducted its Minnesota Integrated Tillage Trials (MITT) at 10 on-farm sites using farm-sized equipment.


These were conducted in two very different growing seasons, with 2004 being unusually cool and 2005 with almost ideal growing conditions.


In 2004, the average was almost exactly the same as the Waseca study, validating those results.


The strip-till corn yield average was 175 bushels per acre, compared to 168 in no-till, 174 in one-pass and 177 in chisel-plus.


“It was a tough test of a conservation tillage system,” Vetsch said of the cool conditions in 2004.


In 2005, strip-till outperformed all other modes with 202 bushels per acre, compared to 196 on no-till, 196 on one-pass and 201 on chisel-plus.


Considering input costs and yields, net farm income per acre in 2004 was $42.34 on strip-till, $36.41 on no-till, $46.05 on one-pass and $44.80 on conventional. In 2005, strip-till economically outperformed all other methods with per-acre income of $96.18, compared to $91.11 on no-till, $88.50 on one-pass and $88.97 on conventional.


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