Strip-Till Success

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Published May 19, 2006 | By admin


Sunflower Magazine


There are, unfortunately, no silver bullets when it comes to clamping the lid on ever-rising fuel, fertilizer and other crop input costs. But the May brothers believe they¹ve found at least a partial answer on their east central Colorado farm: strip-till.


Brothers Tom, Jim, Dan and Steve, who operate 4-M Feeders south of Stratton, run a 12-row Orthman “1tRIPr” one-pass tillage tool across their corn and sunflower acreage. With sunflower, they sometimes take this seedbed preparation efficiency a big step further – using a planter attachment package to hook up their JD MaxEmerge behind the 1trRIPr in order to till and plant in a single pass. Along with conserving critical soil moisture, the system provides significant savings in fuel, tractor wear and manpower – and likewise optimizes fertilizer placement.


Like many High Plains producers, the Mays have been trending toward no-till across much of their Kit Carson County acreage – with added impetus delivered by the drought that has impacted the region the past several years. The moisture-conserving benefits of no-till are well documented; but they believed a strip-till program could be a way of improving seedbed quality and fertilizer placement while simultaneously retaining soil moisture and inter-row residue protection.


The Mays have been strip-tilling for five years, initially on ground going into corn. They¹ve occasionally strip-tilled upcoming corn fields in the fall; however, the busy corn and sunflower harvest seasons, coupled with the demands of their cattle operation, don¹t always leave adequate time to accomplish the task. More typically, they¹ll run the 1tRIPr across the corn ground in early spring, about a month ahead of planting. On sunflower, since the crop is planted later in the spring when soils are warmer, “I can tie the 1tRIPr and planter together,” Tom explains. The 1tRIPr features depth band coulters followed by notched trash openers to manage crop residue. The tillage shank is flanked by adjustable wavy coulters that incorporate the residue and then firm and finish the seedbed. The worked zone width is about eight inches, Tom says. (Orthman also offers optional rolling baskets to break up any remaining clods and further firm the soil; but the Mays don¹t employ baskets on their unit.)


The Mays utilize their 1tRIPr on both irrigated and dryland fields. Since there’s less crop residue on dryland, Tom says he’ll sometimes remove the trash openers and go with just the shank. “I usually run it four to six inches deep; but you can go pretty low if you want to break up some hardpan,” he observes.


He has also, on occasion, placed the trash openers at the front of the planter. “It all depends on the ground conditions,” he notes.


May pulls an anhydrous tank when operating the 1tRIPr on corn ground and irrigated sunflower fields. For dryland sunflower, he’ll go with liquid nitrogen due to seed safety concerns. The seed row is offset slightly from the tillage/fertilizer shank.


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