Illinois strip-tiller Steve Hawthorne struggled to keep his planter in the strips because light-colored soils blended with light-colored residue. But The Ford County farmer who began strip-tilling about 10 years ago found that using RTK made strip-till easier and more accurate.

“It’s a busy, high-skilled operation,” Hawthorne says. “The strip-till rig will certainly keep you awake. It’s not like just getting into the tractor with a chisel plow behind you,” he says, in a University of Illinois news release.

RTK, auto-steer and other precision ag technology are helping strip-tillers, Bob Frazee, University of Illinois Extension educator says.

“More and more farmers are going with strip-till farming and/or controlled traffic patterns because they’re getting greater accuracy and greater efficiency with both planting and application of pesticides,” Frazee says.

How To Benefit From Deep-Banding

Growers need to choose when to deep-band phosphate and potash because this practice will not improve corn and soybean yields or profitability in all situations, according to several Purdue University scientists.

Deep-banding will likely be most beneficial when a number of conditions are met, say Purdue University Agronomy Professor Tony Vyn and graduate students Christopher R. Boomsma and M. Canepa.

Conditions Benefitting Deep-Banding:

  1. Strip-tillage is integrated into the cropping system.
  2. Automatic guidance is used for tillage, fertilization and planting.
  3. Soil-test phosphorus and potassium levels are low to medium.
  4. The soil has a high phosphorus and/or potassium-fixation capacity.
  5. Sub-soil phosphorus and potassium levels are low due to nutrient stratification.
  6. Surface soil layers are dry due to below-normal rainfall, but the soil zone of deep-banding stays sufficiently moist for root growth and high-nutrient uptake rates.
  7. Low surface soil temperatures restrict early root growth and nutrient uptake.
  8. The row crop being grown has been planted more than 10 inches away from previous corn rows or fertilizer bands.
  9. The crop planted shows good early season cold tolerance and extensive root growth in dry conditions.
  10. Starter phosphate and potash are not applied.

All of these conditions are not needed for deep-banding to improve yields and profits, but positive results are more likely when many of these conditions are met, the scientists say.

Strip-Till Excels During Drought

Strip-till corn performed well in yields and profitability in trials at three locations in a 2001 test in Wisconsin, says Tim Maloney, Agri-Tech Consulting research agronomist, Janesville, Wis.

“Across all three locations, yields were best for fall strip-tillage with spring nitrogen, averaging 180.5 bushels per acre, followed by no-till with 162 bushels per acre. Conventional-tillage and fall strip-till with fall nitrogen averaged 159.6 and 153.1 bushels per acre, respectively,” Maloney, says.

“Growing conditions in 2001 were generally not considered great for corn production,” he says. “During June and July, several weeks passed without rainfall. During these high-heat periods, corn showed symptoms of drought stress by rolling leaves and wilting. Despite obvious symptoms of stress, yields were generally good to excellent. At Whitewater, yields were poor were soil was prepared conventionally, demonstrated by excessive stress symptoms from dry periods.”

Strip-till and zero-till corn yields were 30 bushels per acre more than conventionally tilled plots at Whitewater, Maloney says. Both fall strip-till with anhydrous ammonia and no-till yielded 148.2 bushels per acre, while fall chisel-plowed corn yielded 119.4 bushels per acre.

At Milton, fall strip-till with anhydrous ammonia and fall strip-till with spring nitrogen yielded 159 and 169.7 bushels per acre, respectively. No-till yielded 154.8 bushels per acre and fall chisel-plowed corn yielded 166.8 bushels per acre.

At Janesville, strip-tillage with spring nitrogen yielded 188.1 bushels per acre, no-till yielded 166.5 bushels per acre and fall chisel-plowed yielded 182.5 bushels per acre.

Maloney says the costs of production for the tillage systems were quite interesting.

The cost per bushel for fall strip-till with spring nitrogen was $1.41, while no-till’s cost was $1.50. Conventional-tillage cost $1.60 per bushel of corn, while fall strip-till with fall nitrogen cost $1.61 per bushel.

Fewer trips across the field translated to better profits, Maloney says.

The net profit for fall strip-till with spring nitrogen and no-till were $107.96 and $82.18 per acre, respectively. The net for conventional-tillage and for fall strip-till with fall nitrogen was $73.25 and $62.21 per acre, respectively.