Should You Consider Strip-Tillage?

Many factors weigh into decision process.

Published on: Oct 2, 2008

One Indiana farmer recently let us peek into his thoughts as he decided whether to go to strip tillage or some other form of reduced tillage on corn after corn. Since he's conventionally tilled in the past, he doesn't have lots of money invested in new-style tillage equipment of any type. However, he realizes that if he goes with strip-till or no-till with various attachments on the planter, his investment will increase.

Here are some of the decisions he is struggling with, and how he's trying to solve them as he works through this decision process.

  • Where to place fertilizer? Like many others, this farmer wants the most bang for his buck invested in phosphorus and potassium fertilizer, especially now. Many strip till rigs inject the P and K, often several inches deep. You can also rig up strip till unit sot pull anhydrous tanks and inject anhydrous ammonia. This particular farmer wants his fertilizer there for corn to get to, but worries if placing it too deep, like behind many typical strip till knives, will put the fertilizer deeper than corn can get to it early in the season. He also wonders if claims that he could apply les since he's applying in a band instead of broadcasting P and K hold true. Unfortunately, there is very little recent data available on this topic, and what data is there doesn't always agree.
  • How to get information- This farmer found a unit he looked at one of the fall farm shows. It appealed to him because it didn't use knives to place fertilizer deep, but instead featured more mixing action with P and K near the surface. Fall farm shows are a great place to make comparisons, but many are over. However, Indiana Prairie Farmer and other Farm Progress magazines will soon carry a description of many new products. Also, most major manufacturers have easy to find Websites.
  • Ask other producers- Be cautious if a company doesn't provide you with a list of farmers, with at least some within an easy drive of your farm, who have used their product that you could talk to. Even if these same farmers give testimonials in print for the company, if you can visit them by phone or ideally on their farm, you can learn much from someone who's actually run the machine. Most are willing to share because nearly everyone of them talked to someone else who shared how to tweak the system before they bought their unit.
  • Study impact of investment- Jumping into strip-till means buying a strip-till rig, likely at least an 8-row, and maybe a 12-row on most large Indiana farms. Price tags on this iron are high, so it deserves careful consideration.
  • Comapre features- Two names in the business of no-till and minimum tillage attachments, Yetter and Dawn, are introducing residue wheels that can be adjusted form the cab for the first time. Dawn's system adjusts row cleaners hydraulically, while Yetter uses electronic devices to raise or lower the residue wheels from the tractor seat. Those are important features because if you're investing in new equipment anyway, you might as well check out the latest technology that will allow you to work as efficiently as possible.
  • Check availability- One of the common refrains from salesmen for machinery companies at fall shows was that they were selling their wears faster than their company's production unit could turn them out. Unless you find an existing unit on a dealer's lot, you may not get delivery as soon aw you would like.