Where does strip-tillage fit? Where does no-till work best? Will strip-tillage out yield no-till on my farm?

Those are several of the questions I have received from farmers at meetings this winter. Here are some thoughts about strip-tillage in answer to these questions.

Strip-tillage, which creates a soil environment that enhances seed germination, is an alternative to no-till in areas where poorly drained soils are dominant.

Where soil moisture conditions are suitable, strip-tillage — traditionally in the fall — creates narrow-width tilled strips to increase early spring soil evaporation and soil temperature in the top two inches.

This is particularly effective in poorly drained, wet soils, where slightly raised soil strips are created by farm equipment such as anhydrous knives, disks, coulters, tool bars or manure injection equipment. Both fertilizer application and strip-tillage can be performed in one operation.

The basic requirements for strip-tillage to be effective are accuracy in matching tillage equipment on the tool bar with the planter and placement of seeds in the tilled zone.

Improving plant emergence

Faster and more uniform emergence of corn plants are two of the key goals of strip-tillage.

In the fall, anhydrous ammonia injection knives, fluted coulters or other tool attachments are used to create residue-free strips and tilled zones that are approximately 6 to 8 inches wide and 6 to 8 inches deep.

In the spring, seeds are planted directly in the same strips. Fertilizers may be incorporated while tilling these strips.

This concept is similar to another system, zone-tillage, with one exception. In zone-tillage, multiple fluted coulters create a zone that is approximately 1 to 2 inches deep and 8 inches wide and free of residue.