June 12, 2024

Research, practical experiences to highlight strip-tillage conference

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — The National Strip-Tillage Conference is coming to central Illinois this summer, offering tips, ideas and techniques from experts and fellow farmers.

The conference will be held Aug. 3-4 at the Bloomington-Normal Marriott and Conference Center.

A pre-conference “In the Field” workshop will be held Wednesday, Aug. 2, at Precision Planting’s PTI Farm at Pontiac.

Topics in the general sessions include season-long nutrient management, a farmer-to-farmer panel for insights and recommendations, and strip-till as a solution for nutrient stratification’s yield impact.

There also will be classroom sessions to provide experience-based insights from the field covering such topics as cutting-edge technology, maximizing return-on-investments through management zones, integrating cattle and crop rotations, weed control strategies, making strip-till work on a low budget, and cover crops in strip-till systems.

In addition, roundtable discussions are planned, covering a variety of topics.

In a preview of one of the general sessions and preconference tour, Noah Newman, Strip-Till Farmer technology editor, hosted a video with Jason Webster, Precision Planting lead agronomist and PTI Farm director.

Webster’s general session topic at the conference will focus on strip-till lessons that have been learned at the PTI Farm. He noted the six major topics he’ll cover during his general session presentation.

1. Comparing strip-till to other tillage programs. “What is the yield difference and more importantly putting a dollar per acre cost to each program and how they compare to each other. What has been the best and what is the dollar difference on a per acre basis,” Webster said.

2. Fertilizer banding versus broadcast applications. “Due to the historic high cost of fertilizer right now, we’ve got to farm smarter, and to do that it’s not broadcasting or what I sometimes call slinging fertilizer on every square inch of our soil,” Webster noted.

“I’ll talk about some of the long-term data we’ve collected with banding versus broadcast, and putting dry fertilizer applications in a band underneath where we’re planting and show some of the differences in yield and, most importantly, net return.

“We’re doing that in both corn and soybeans. Most all of our trials are put in both corn and soybeans. One thing growers ask me all the time, ‘Strip-till is for corn, right? Why are you doing it for soybeans?’ Well, we’re doing strip-till for soybeans, too. It works just the same.”

3. Utilizing strip-till for early planted soybeans. “Some of our planting date data has been really encouraging, but how do you do it if you’re in a no-till situation with colder, maybe wetter soils? We use strip-till to make that wide band. You have that nice black soil grabbing heat from the sun, that thermal radiation warms the soil up where I can sneak in and do some of my early plant soybeans and it’s really been successful for us,” Webster said.

4. Liquid versus dry fertilizer. “As we traveled the country this past winter, it was really interesting talking with growers that do strip-till. Some growers use dry fertilizer, others use liquid fertilizer. So, we’re in our first year of testing, looking at liquid fertilizer formulations in a strip versus what I’ll call status quo — the typical DAP and potash dry formulations. We’ll talk about some of those difference we have here on the farm,” Webster said.

5. Fertilizer rate efficiency. “One of the questions we get a lot from growers is, ‘If I’m banding fertilizer, can I use less of it?’ Due to the high cost of fertilizer, that is a legitimate question,” Webster noted.

“We’re going to talk about some of our results of trials to see if we can reduce fertilizer if we are in a band in our strip-till. Right now, that answer is yes. We’re still trying to study it. But right now, our data would say that there could be a 25% to 50% reduction in fertilizer as long as we’re in a band. There are some exciting numbers there that we’ll talk about.”

6. Incorporating cover crops into a strip-till system. “Cover crops are a great way to hopefully increase soil health or improve soil health, but there’s some management that comes along the way that is a little difficult for growers. My experience has been corn and soybean yields have gone lower as we’ve tried to incorporate cover crop programs on the farm,” Webster stated.

“We’re using strip-till as a way to make it a lot easier to manage cover crops and still give us the ability to band fertilizer and not let the cover crop and then the new crop of corn or soybeans kind of compete with each other. We’ve got enough nutrition in place so that nothing slows us down and we’re full-bore ahead.

“So, we’ve got some long-term studies. We’ve got corn-after-corn, corn-after-soybeans and then soybean-after-corn. This is designed as a 10-year program. A lot of the things we’ll talk about at the strip-till program are 10-year programs to look at long term and really try to figure out the differences of what we’re trying to evaluate in the field.”

Tom Doran

Tom C. Doran

Field Editor