Paul Cornette hosted Peninsula Pride Farms’ first Conservation Conversation of the year on April 28. A group of eight farmer members gathered in a field at Cornette Dairy to talk about strip tilling (also known as zone tilling) and fertilizer banding.
Mike Pribyl with DDTF LLC works with the farm. His business does custom strip tilling, custom planting and other fertilizer application in northeastern Wisconsin. He brought his strip-till machine to demonstrate it. The method incorporates fertilizer in the ground, close to the seed, and removes residue, giving the farmer a better return on investment. The idea behind it is only one-third of the soil is disturbed rather than the whole field.
Cornette shared why he has decided to do strip tilling.
“When you move to a no-till situation with grain corn, you have two challenges ─ the amount of residue on the soil and you might leave nitrogen fertilizer on the surface which could be lost. That can be an environmental and economic problem. By using the strip-till machine, it helps tackle both challenges by loosening up the ground, clears trash out of the way and it incorporates the fertilizer in the loose band to make it more efficient.”
Pribyl shared recommendations on speed and zone width. The tractor speed should be 8-12 mph. The speed helps fling the soil up in the zone you want. The zone width is 6-8 inches and depth depends on how wet the soil is at time of application. The depth could go down 6-8 inches, but the main concentration is 2-5 inches.
The group also discussed soil temperature. The idea is the temperature in the zone would be higher than the soil temperature. Factors might include trash on top of the soil, time since fertilizer application and time of day. Local agronomist Nathen Nysse suggests soil temperatures of 45 degrees to plant corn, however University of Wisconsin research suggests that could be lower. The soil temperatures on the night of the field day were 46 degrees with trash on top, 43 degrees in the zone and 41 degrees on bare soil.
Cornette has been pleased with his strip-till experience. The large benefits he sees are residue management, ability to apply nitrogen early and have it incorporated, and not having to haul manure to fields that are a farther distance from the farm. He encourages more farmers to look at this for an option to start practicing conservation.