Strip-till considerations in Oklahoma
Strip-till does conserve more soil moisture compared to conventional tillage systems. However in some cases, strip-till may reduce soil moisture compared to no-till. This is especially important in western Oklahoma where soil moisture is limited and strip-till allows the seed bed to dry out more quickly than a no-till seed bed, which has the residue still intact. The reduction in soil moisture may last throughout the growing season and reduce yields as it has done on a study at the Oklahoma Panhandle Research and Extension Center (OPREC) at Goodwell, Okla. (Figure 2).
Some of the difference in grain yield for 2006 can be attributed to a delay in maturation of the grain sorghum due to drought stress. The conventional tillage and strip-till plots exhibited drought stress for approximately 2 weeks during the growing season in 2007. This drought stress resulted in delayed head emergence and grain fill, which resulted in reduced test weight (Table 1). click image to zoom
In dry years, such as 2006, strip-till may not be advantageous when compared to no-till due to soil moisture loss in the tilled strip. However, strip-till may still have benefits depending on the cropping system. Breaking up a plow pan layer is possible with strip-till. The breaking up of the plow pan with strip till and the ability to use anhydrous ammonia as N source in a lower yielding environment may make strip-till more economical than no-till.
Timing of strip-till
Timing of strip-tillage does not have a large impact on strip-till success. However, a few considerations should be made, such as soil moisture conditions and time of year. If soil moisture conditions are dry, you may want to forgo strip-till since tillage in the row will only make the seed bed drier. Also, if soils are wet, you may want to delay strip-till because of seed bed roughness. Remember, you are creating the seedbed you will plant into later. In parts of western Oklahoma, strip-till in the fall may be beneficial in order to replenish soil moisture in the seeding zone compared to strip-till a few days prior to planting. Some individuals may find strip-till and planting in one operation to fit the best. The benefit of this is that all field work can be done in one operation.
As outlined previously, one of the primary purposes of strip tillage is to create a tilled strip in which seed will be planted. Thus there is a desire to stay on this tilled strip when planting. Success of this system depends on the ability to plant directly on top of the tilled strip where the fertilizer was placed. There are two interrelated items to consider: matching rows on the strip till implement; and planter and driving accuracy. If the implement widths match, any errors in the guess row will have less effect on planting in the strip. If they do not match, driving accuracy must be sufficient to avoid missing the strip with the planter. Conversely, if driving accuracy has minimal error, matching rows is not as important. Driving accuracy includes being able to return to the same path and minimizing overlap or skip. Returning to the strip is relatively simple when the strip is still visible. However, if enough time passes between when strips are made and planting, the tilled strips may not be as visible.
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