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While soybean growers have been moving toward no-till in a big way, the growth of no-till corn acres has remained somewhat flat in recent years.
In fact, some farmers have never tried no-tilling corn because they’re unsure of planting in ground covered with residue, says Alan Sundermeier, a Henry County (Ohio) county agricultural extension agent.
Plowing gets residue out of sight and allows other farmers to plant corn easily. But they lose many no-till benefits, including highly valuable residue cover.
Strip-tillage may offer a solution for no-till corn growers, say Sundermeier and Randall Reeder, an agricultural engineer with Ohio State University (OSU). You can use a strip-till machine in the fall to move residue away from the row and create a strip or ridge of bare soil. The exposed soil in the ridge warms up faster in the spring, allowing for earlier no-tilling of corn.
In fact, soil temperature in a strip-tilled seed zone can be 6 to 10 degrees warmer on sunny spring afternoons than untilled areas between the strips. This zone reaches the same temperature as quickly as the soil found in a conventionally tilled field, says Reeder.
The areas between the strips are left untilled and covered with residue, which conserves soil moisture and reduces erosion. It also helps build soil organic matter and soil structure.
Reeder recommends using a strip-till machine with a row cleaner in front, which moves residue away from the row where the strip will be made. It should have…