Improve Soil Productivity
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Avoid Spring Strip-Tilling's Costliest Mistakes
Here's a list of the most common mistakes growers told us they made in the past when strip-tilling in the spring. For additional information on this topic, see "Spring Stripping Strategies" on pages 18 to 22 of the Winter 2008 issue of the Conservation Tillage Guide.
1. Running a knife or shank very deep in wet soil is not good. If it turns dry, the corn roots can become restricted in a tight band. — Shane Meier, Columbus, Ind.
2. Don't set your strip-till knives too deep, as this will result in increased fuel consumption. — Sjoerd Duiker, University Park, Pa.
3. If you run your strip-till knives too deep in the spring, you'll run the risk of bringing up soil lumps and clumps that make planting difficult. — Kurt Afdahl, Hammond, Wis.
4. Don't be in a rush to strip-till in the spring. Instead, wait 2 days after your first neighbor starts doing tillage and keep the planter off the strips for at least 24 hours. A strip-till unit with knives running 8 to 12 inches deep will bring up cold, wet soil. When we have hurried planting because of changing weather conditions, we've reduced our stands and yields. Later-planted fields that are planted properly tend to yield more. — Floyd Koerner, Laingsburg, Mich.
5. Don't wait too long after strip-tilling in the spring before planting corn. Even waiting 1 or 2 hours on a hot, sunny spring day to plant may be too long. — Jon Patterson, Auburn, N.Y.
6. Don't be strip-tilling in the spring on days when you could be planting. — Scott Odle, Linden, Ind.
7. The biggest mistake is preparing strips early in the spring and then watching them dry out when there isn't any rain. If you plant right after you make the strips, it will help seal in some moisture. But you'll still be at the mercy of the weather and need a rain to keep your corn plants growing several weeks later. The ground can dry out several inches wide and deep in the strips. If you get early spring rains that delay getting the strips built, you'll be out there later trying to get the strips done when you should be planting corn. — Mike Reichart, Tallula, Ill.
8. With spring strip-tilling, the slot can end up being too fluffy, which can make planter depth control in the slot extremely difficult. This reduces your plant population. A lack of a uniform stand may reduce yields more than the compaction problem that you were trying to avoid. — Craig Burns, Resource Conservationist with The Nature Conservancy Shiawassee River Project in Owosso, Mich.
9. When you disturb too much soil with spring strip-tilling and plant into a zone with many air pockets, poor seed-to-soil contact or improper seed depth may result. — Andy Thompson
10. Another mistake we made was not using the correct coulter, which resulted in too small of a berm to follow when planting. — Kurt Afdahl
11. Watch out for possible anhydrous ammonia burn in the row area where you will be planting. — Sjoerd Duiker
12. Seed burn from anhydrous ammonia can be a major concern. If you plant into a zone where anhydrous ammonia has not had a chance to turn into the nitrate form, it can burn the seed. — Andy Thompson
13. Avoid too much residue disturbance, as this can move you out of the government's conservation tillage category. — Sjoerd Duiker
14. The worst mistake was not properly measuring the length of the row marker arms, so the distance was off on our guess rows. We didn't realize we'd made this mistake until two-thirds of the stripping was done. Since the corn planter had to follow the same strips, the guess row problem was very evident. — Kurt Afdahl