row cleaners

Reaching 300-Bushel Plateau With Irrigation, Reduced Tillage

Contest winner Heath Schake shares how he pushes strip-till corn yields with high populations, accurate seeding, proper fertility and irrigation.

High populations, good fertility and a little luck from Mother Nature are the three key ingredients Heath Schake has found for contest-winning corn yields.

The Kearney, Neb., grower finished first place in Nebraska’s irrigated no-till/strip-till category of the 2013 National Corn Growers Association’s yield contest with a personal best of 309.6 bushels.

Schake knows he has a few factors working in his favor — like silt-loam soils and no limit on irrigation — to help him hit 300-plus contest corn yields, and 230- to 270-bushel averages on the rest of his farm. But he’s pushing yields even more by perfecting his planting, bumping populations and focusing on fertility.

Planting, Populations

Located in south-central Nebraska, Schake farms around 2,500 acres, with 50% in a no-till corn-soybean rotation and the other 50% strip-tilled continuous corn, including his contest ground.

Schake began implementing a conservation tillage program in 2008 to reduce soil erosion on hills and save fuel and manpower. After failing to achieve good stands and even emergence in no-tilled continuous corn he started using strip-till.

He plants corn and soybeans with two 16-row John Deere planters, both set up with Schlagel closing wheels and Martin floating row cleaners with Precision Planting’s CleanSweep system, which allows him to adjust the row cleaners on the go.


His goal is to clear away residue at planting without moving too much soil and allowing residue to blow around, resulting in uneven cover.

“If you move too much soil and it rains, it washes out,” Schake…

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Laura Barrera

Laura Barrera is the former managing editor of No-Till Farmer and Conservation Tillage Guide magazines. Prior to joining No-Till Farmer, she served as an assistant editor for a greenhouse publication. Barrera holds a B.A. in magazine journalism from Ball State University.

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