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Strip-till practices being researched

Posted Monday, January 24, 2011, at 3:50 PM

Strip-till is becoming more popular as a means to manage fertility in a reduced tillage system. This is in part due to the greater use of automatic guidance systems technology such as GPS and autosteer. With this technology, it is possible to plant corn directly over the top of previously established strip-tilled fertilizer rows. The concern is whether this is the best placement for seed.

Depending on how soon the corn is planted after the fertilizer has been applied, and the rate and forms of fertilizers applied, the best location for planting may be some distance away from the strip-tilled fertilized rows.

Strip-tilled fertilized rows could have air pockets under the row, might be dry or cloddy, or could have excessive levels of fertilizer salts or free ammonia. On the other hand, planting too far away from the strip-tilled fertilized rows might reduce benefits from residue management including warmer loosened soil and rapid root-to-fertilizer contact.

Research was conducted in 2006, 2008, and 2009 in Kansas to evaluate these concerns. In 2006, where the fertilizer was applied 1 day before planting, plant populations were higher for corn planted 3.75 inches off the center of the fertilizer row.

In 2008, where there were two weeks between the strip-till operation and planting, plant populations were still increased by planting just slightly off the strip-tilled fertilized rows. No differences in plant populations occurred in 2009, when the strip-tll operation was performed 2.5 months before planting.

Early season growth tended to be better for corn planted directly on top of the strip-tilled fertilized rows or just slightly off (3.75 in) than for corn planted 7.5 or 15 in of the center of the rows.

Yield of corn in 2006 on top of the fertilizer rows was 8 percent less than that of corn planted 3.75 in off the center of the row due to reduced plant population. In 2008, corn planted 3.75 in off the center of the strip-tiled fertilized rows had the highest plant population and the highest grain yield.

In 2009, when the strip-till operation was performed 2.5 months before planting and the was plenty of time for the strip-tilled seedbed to settle, there was no differences in plant population nor yield between planting directly on the strip-tilled rows and planting 3.754in. off the rows.

The research indicates that, in general, the best location for planting on fine textured soils is within 3.75 in of the strip-tilled fertilized rows and where the seedbed was firm and moist. This is the most likely to ensure quick contact between corn roots and fertilizer. Also as indicated by the differences between intervals between fertilizer application and planting date, there are some management options depending on timing of fertilizer application.

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As our local University of Missouri Agronomy Extension Specialist, Crook has been writing a column for the print edition Agriculture page for the past three years and we will now be sharing it on our web version. Crook has a bachelor and masters degree in agronomy from University of Missouri and received his doctorate in Agronomy from Kansas State University. He was in soybean variety development research for 22 years for various seed companies and has been Saline County's agronomy specialist for 10 years.
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