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‘WORK THE ZONE’ To Boost Strip-Till Fertility

Placing fertilizer both shallow and deep, and planting in the middle of the berm, can maximize your strip-till corn yields.

For successful results in strip-till, fertilizer needs to be placed in a zone where the roots and seedlings of corn can readily access plant-food nutrients.

But soil types, weather conditions and soil-sample results that affect the application timing and fertilizer placement and choice can all be major factors in that success.

For example, shallow placement of anhydrous ammonia in spring strip-tilled fields can burn the roots and kill germinating corn. And if strip-tillers apply anhydrous ammonia in the fall when the soil temperature is too warm — or if they strip-till into sandy soils — nitrogen can drop out of the seed zone.

Fertilizer programs and placement need to be just right, leaving an array of important choices for strip-tillers to make.

Making Adjustments

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David Hardy of Fairview, Mont., strip-tills corn and sugar beets under center pivots, which irrigate about 60% of his acres. He also grows malting barley, wheat and alfalfa for a cow-calf operation.

Hardy uses a 270-horsepower John Deere 8270R tractor to pull his 12-row Strip Cat strip-till rig — set to 26-inch spacings — and a 6-ton Montag fertilizer cart.

Before strip-tilling in the fall, Hardy soil tests each field and applies about 85% of the recommended amount of nitrogen. Since phosphorus and potassium don’t move in the soil, Hardy applies 50% of the recommended rates, based on soil-test results.

“We have high-pH soils — 8 to 8.8 pH is typical,” Hardy says. “Applying 100% of the phosphate and potash in the fall is inefficient, because…

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Dan Zinkland

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