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Strip-Tillers Narrowing Their Options

Growers using rows less than 30 inches are preserving residue and still getting the many strip-till benefits they’re accustomed to.

Whether it’s strip-tilling on 20- or 22-inch rows, a small, but dedicated number of strip-tillers are making narrow rows work for them.

For farmers who’ve used 22-inch rows and conventional tillage for dry edible beans and sugarbeets, going to a 22-inch strip-till system seems like a natural transition.

Increasingly, these farmers are also growing corn on narrow-row spacing. Whether raising sugarbeets, dry edible beans or corn, these strip-tillers all agree that residue management is challenging, but doable.

Why Narrow Rows?

After growing sugarbeets on 22-inch rows for years, growers in North Dakota, Minnesota and Idaho have been moving to narrow-row strip-till for beets and have also been growing more corn that way, says Mike Petersen, Orthman Mfg.’s precision-tillage agronomist.

“Monsanto, Pioneer and Syngenta now have 88-to-90-day, relative-maturity hybrids adapted for that northern region that can average 220 bushels per acre,” Petersen says. “It’s a no-brainer. Up north, growers have much more sunlight per day — 14 to 15 hours — since the Earth is tipped toward the south during the summer.

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“But they also take the chance of frost in early September and on the 1st of June.”

Some growers in eastern Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Ontario, Canada, are also turning to narrow-row strip-till.

“They’re all looking at harvesting more sunlight with the narrower row spacing and getting ground canopy as soon as possible to suppress weeds, reduce evaporation and hold moisture within that canopy,” he says.

But the challenge for many strip-tillers is how to handle the residue…

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Dan Zinkland

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