Farm Progress

Seeing trash on top of the ground in early spring looks odd, yet strip-till corn yields in 2016 were on par with yields from conventional fields in the area.

December 5, 2016

2 Min Read

Continuous corn in 22-inch rows — plus strip tillage — equals lots of residue.

Brian and Sandy Ryberg of Buffalo Lake use strip tillage to raise about 2,900 acres of corn and soybeans, in addition to sugarbeets.

“Our main concern with strip till is trash,” Brian Ryberg says.

Despite farming with lots of residue in an excessively wet year, the Rybergs’ 2016 corn and soybean yields were comparable to conventionally tilled crop yields in the region, Brian Ryberg says. Their strip-tilled corn yields ranged from 190 to 240 bushel per acre, depending on rainfall and drainage. Strip-tilled soybeans averaged 64 to 70 bushels per acre.

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Uneven residue distribution causes more problems in strip tillage than in full-width tillage, Ryberg observes after his first full year of strip-till production. Piles or windrows of trash can plug the strip tiller or cause uneven tillage depth.

To improve residue distribution, Ryberg this fall switched from a chopping corn head to a conventional head with Calmer stalk rollers. He also ran a Salford vertical tillage tool right behind the combine to size corn residue before building the strips.

In continuous corn fields, Ryberg found that he needed to run his 24-row strip tiller as a 12-row machine, folding over the wings to achieve uniform strips in heavy residue.

Ryberg adjusted his corn seed genetics for the higher-residue environment.

You might need to revise your disease and pest management programs, too, says Ken Kuttner, Kuttner Seeds, Stewart. In strip-tilled corn, seed treatments may be more important, he says. You should also step up scouting for black cutworm, which is attracted to crop residue. In strip-tilled soybeans, white mold may be more of a concern.

The appearance of early-season strip-tilled corn takes some getting used to, Ryberg warns. As he was spraying last spring, he wondered why his corn looked stunted, compared to the neighbor’s conventionally tilled corn. He was disturbed enough that he actually went out and measured the plants in both his own field and his neighbor’s.

Turned out there was no difference.

“You do have to put up with ugly duckling syndrome early in the spring,” Kuttner says.

Liz Morrison is a freelance writer from Morris.

Editor’s note: Additional stories about strip tillage for sugarbeets recently appeared on The Farmer’s website. See "Strip-tillage sweet spot" from Nov. 28, "Stewardship propels change to strip tillage" from Nov. 29 and "Strip-till sugarbeet yields comparable to conventional"  from Nov. 30.

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