Soil School: Best practices for strip tilling in the Northern Plains

This episode of Soil School is an interview with Jodi DeJong-Hughes, of the University of Minnesota, discussing how best to adopt strip tillage and avoid some of the common pitfalls farmers face when changing practices.

DeJong-Hughes examines optimum season of application, controlled traffic farming, crop type, and trafficability when it comes to strip tillage.

Listen on for more details in this Soil School (Write up continues below): 


When debating fall and spring tillage, DeJong-Hughes says lack of time in the spring often leads to work being done in the fall. Implement type is also a determinant of which season is best for strip tillage; shanks are not recommended for spring as they smear the soil when it is wet. DeJong-Hughes notes that some companies have a system where you can remove shanks and put in double coulters.

Another aspect related to both season and strip tillage DeJong-Hughes discusses is fertilizer application. During spring application you must consider the possibility of seed burn, especially if you are applying anhydrous ammonia. She recommends fall application of phosphorus and potassium, especially if you are in sandy soil with minimal rain; followed by side-dressing N fertilizer throughout the growth season.

DeJong-Hughes weighs in on controlled-traffic farming of corn and beans. She mentions the difficulty of planting beans into old corn root balls. This issue could be remedied by twin rowing corn and single rowing beans or by staggering the crops by the correct distance. Staying closer to the old row is important when using a berming disc to ensure old material within the soil is not kicked into the berm, she says.

DeJong-Hughes discusses the importance of having a mentor such as a consultant or another grower to effectively adopt strip tillage. Connections with a mentor can give you small adjustments to your practices to allow the greatest success.

Sometimes it’s a really easy, simple fix. But if you don’t talk to anybody, you wouldn’t know.

Jodi Dejong-Hughes

Higher tillage root crops, such as sugar beets, benefit from strip tillage. DeJong-Hughes mentions how practicing strip tilling reduces the loss of quality black topsoil in increasingly extreme weather patterns. Strip tillage warms up within the berm as well as chisel and mouldboard plough methods. Deeper down within the soil strip, tillage leaves moisture for late June and July when the crop needs it.

Circling back to trafficability, DeJong-Hughes points out leaving the root systems intact builds better soil structure. This increase in soil structure increases trafficability of fields when wet, as equipment will be better supported. She also notes that having stock stompers on tires is beneficial when practicing strip tilling as the stocks tend to chew up tires.

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