Three precision technology tips to improve strip-till
Strip-tiller Will Cannon has a more intimate knowledge of precision farming technology than most farmers.
He recently returned home full-time to the family farm in Newton, Iowa, where they raise corn and soybeans on about 500 acres. Cannon also does custom GPS mapping of precision farming data for local farmers, and he previously served as a product support specialist with Ag Leader Technology.
Cannon’s main objective has been to marry the conservation benefits of no-till systems with the potential of higher yields through targeted fertilizer placement and precision technology available with strip-till.
Cannon averages 160 and 190 bushels per acre on his strip-tilled corn-on-corn acres, and typically over 200 bushels per acre on strip-tilled corn after soybean acres. He uses an 12-row Environmental Tillage Systems Soil Warrior strip-till rig.
“We’ve been able to get as high as 270 bushels in one field in 2011, and even in the drought year of 2012 we were 173 bushels per acre on very dry soils,” he says. “Strip-till has definitely kept our yields close to or better than what we’d seen with other tillage practices.”
A key component of Cannon’s success has been his investment and experimentation with precision technology, which he says strip-tillers should take full advantage of to maximize efficiency and profitability.
Based on his experiences in the field, Cannon shared some tips and advice on choosing and incorporating precision-farming strategies that can enhance strip-till results.
1. Steering Toward Efficiency
Most strip-tillers understand the value of a reliable auto-steer system on their tractor, but Cannon says there are different tiers of performance that can affect accuracy.
“For strip-till, don’t even consider manual guidance,” he says. “You want it to be automatic because you can’t afford to be wandering when making those strips.”
Assisted steering is an fairly economical auto-steering option. These systems connect to the steering wheel of a tractor and have instrumentation built-in to guide the machine. Assuming strip-tillers have a monitor in place, assisted-steering systems can cost $3,000 to $4,000 to incorporate, and another $1,500 to $3,000 for a GPS receiver, Cannon says.
However, one drawback to assisted steering is that on hillsides or rolling terrain, these systems can struggle to maintain accuracy. For strip-till, Cannon recommends integrated-steering systems to ensure repeated accuracy regardless of terrain.
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