Strip-tillage crop management
• Soil conservation. Strip-tillage offers potential to reduce soil erosion because crop residue is maintained between the strips of tilled soil.
• Reduced fuel usage and labor requirement. In recent years more row crop acres are planted to corn-on-corn production. Full-width tillage corn-on-corn management may require multiple in-field passes between fall harvest and spring planting including cornstalk chopping, fall primary tillage (disk-chisel and other more aggressive forms of tillage) and one or more secondary spring tillage passes (field cultivator, disk, or soil finisher). Eliminating the need for spring pre-plant full-width tillage reduces labor costs, accelerates the pace of planting and fewer passes across the field means fewer gallons of fuel are being used.
• Improved fertilizer nutrient placement. Some farmers using strip-tillage choose to apply nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and other fertilizer nutrients in-furrow with the strip-tillage operation. In-furrow fertilizer placement makes the nutrients readily available for young corn and soybean seedling growth and has potential to improve fertilizer use efficiency.
• Improved soil structure and water infiltration. Long-term no-tillers cite improved soil structure and improved water infiltration as benefits of eliminating tillage. But slow emergence and early vegetative growth of corn and soybean on poorly drained and colder soils can reduce crop yields. Strip-tilled soil warms and dries quickly for timely planting of corn and soybean. Surface crop residue between rows holds up the tractor at planting and may allow earlier planting than tilled fields. Farmers using strip-tillage also report that there is less ponding and surface runoff in heavy rainfall, when compared to their neighbors’ full-width tilled fields.
Innovative, successful farmers are enjoying the benefits of strip-tillage crop management and each farmer implements strip-tillage differently. It can be as simple as creating the tilled strips for seedbed preparation or as detailed as merging seedbed preparation and fertilizer nutrient application into a single field operation.
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