Three precision technology tips to improve strip-till
“These are going to be your Cadillac models, and with RTK and a base station it can cost $12,000 to $20,000. But the big difference is there’s a lot more sensors on these systems so they feel which direction the tractor is going, even without the GPS,” he says. “It can tell how it’s pitched and it can tell forward and back. That’s really what you need when you're trying to make sure you’ve got that repeatability in strip-till.”
Cannon uses an Ag Leader ParaDyme integrated-steering system on his Case IH MX285 tractor with Iowa’s Continuously Operating Reference Stations Network (CORS) for RTK to pull his strip-till rig.
One benefit of this system for Cannon is that it removes “guess work” when loading guidance lines each year.
“A problem strip-tillers run into with lower-quality GPS is they load that gold-standard pattern, engage the auto-steer, drive a little ways and then have to keep checking to make sure they’re on the strip,” he says. “If they’re not, they have to nudge that line to compensate, and that just wastes time.”
Another consideration when choosing an auto-steer system is whether to include rate control. Cannon says strip-tillers often ask if this is necessary.
“Some people say strip-till is just about the tillage and that’s all they’re worried about, so maybe only guidance is needed,” he says. “For me, it’s about placement of fertilizer and banding it in the strip. If I’m going to spend the money on a quality auto-steer system, it’s going to have rate control as well.”
Cannon manages one farm where the previous owner had depleted the phosphorus levels down to 5 parts per million and the potassium levels were at 70 parts per million. This past year, he applied removal rates of potassium and phosphorus in those fields, based on soil-test results, for a 220-bushel-an-acre corn yield.
“We ended up yielding near 225 bushels per acre,” he says. “I feel pretty strongly that the placement of that fertilizer, especially in low-fertility conditions, is really making a difference for me.”
Through his auto-guidance system, Cannon has rate-control capabilities on his strip-till rig and planter, but he’s seen some strip-tillers rate control five or six different products on their strip-till rig.
“I think for strip tilling you need at least of three channels of control — and honestly, I think five or more is an advantage,” Cannon says. “I’m still playing with this in my own strip-till system, but as I build more management zones based on yield history, I’ll be utilizing more variable-rate fertilizing prescriptions to feed those crops.”