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Fine-Tuning Fertility Makes Strip-Till More Profitable

Using precision technology, Paul and Mike Schweitzer continue to evolve their strip-till and fertilizer systems to slash input costs, preserve soil and water quality and achieve higher yields.

Paul And Mike Schweitzer don’t see the sense in tilling every inch of every field of their 1,200-acre farm operation.

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Working on flat and gently rolling fields, the father-son partnership has found that strip-till is a better fit for their mostly continuous-corn operation near Malta, Ill.

Going into their fifth year of strip-till, the Schweitzers find their yields are similar to conventionally tilled, continuous-corn acres in the area — but the real benefit comes from reduced input costs and better soil health.

The Schweitzers strip-till 80% of their corn ground, only tilling when they’re working in lime or incorporating high rates of manure.

“Our tillage has changed dramatically,” Paul says. “We’ve gone from moldboard plowing to chisel plowing to ridge till, which didn’t work. Then we tried no-till and now strip-till, which seems to be the best solution.”

Mike says if farmers switch to strip-till, they won’t see a huge jump in yield, “but you will see a decrease in input costs from less tillage, and more efficient use of fertilizer.

The Right Place

The Schweitzers have found that strip-till is more environmentally sound than other tillage practices, and that variable-rate technology has helped them get more out of their fertilizer applications.

“Until this year, we’ve been using variable-rate broadcast fertilizer to manage fertility, matching rates to soil needs,” Mike says. “We’re finding that we’re using about the same amount of fertilizer, but applying it more selectively to areas that need it, without wasting it on areas that don’t need…

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