Strip-till is the conservation system that uses a minimum tillage. It combines the soil drying and warming benefits of conventional tillage with the soil-protecting advantages of no-till by disturbing only the portion of the soil that is to contain the seed row. This type of tillage is performed with special equipment and can require the farmer to make multiple trips, depending on the strip-till implement used, and field conditions. Each row that has been strip-tilled is usually about eight to ten inches wide. Another benefit of strip-tilling is that the farmer can apply chemicals and fertilizer at the same time as tillage (1).
Strip-till combines the soil drying and warming benefits of conventional tillage with the soil-protecting advantages of no-till (2). Strip till warms the soil, it allows an aerobic condition, and it allows for a better seedbed than no-till. Strip-till allows the soil’s nutrients to be better adapted to the plant’s needs, while still giving ground coverage to the soil between the rows. The system will still allow for some soil water contact that could cause erosion, however, the amount of erosion on a strip-tilled field would be light compared to the amount of erosion on a conventionally tilled field. Furthermore, when liquid fertilizer is being applied, it can be directly applied in these rows where the seed is being planted, reducing the amount of fertilizer needed while improving proximity of the fertilizer to the rootzone. Compared to conventional tillage, strip tillage saves considerable time and money. Strip tillage can reduce the amount of trips through a field down to two or possibly one trip when using a strip till implement combined with a planter. This can save the farmer a considerable amount of time and fuel, while reducing soil compaction due to few passes in a field. With the use of GPS guided tractors, this precision farming can increase overall yields (3).
No-till planters have a disk opener (commonly referred to as a no-till coulter) that is located in front of the planting unit. This coulter is designed to cut through crop residue and into the hard crust of the soil. After the coulter has broken through the residue and crust, the disk opener of the planting unit slices the soil and the seed is dropped into the furrow that has been created and then a press wheel closes the furrow. The pictures are of no-till drills and they use the same principles as discussed above to plant the season’s crops. With strip-tillage systems more precision is needed. The farmer will work the ground with a specialized implement to till up an eight to ten inch row and at the same time incorporate the fertilizer or chemical that the farmer so chooses. If the applicator’s chemical or fertilizer meter is off slightly, the farmer will not be applying an accurate rate of the chemical. This could result in increased expenses or reduction of the efficacy of the fertilizer program (4). There are many variations of strip-till equipment, but the following is typical: row cleaner, coulter, tillage shank, and ‘covering’ disks. All components are mounted on a tool bar equipped with row markers. It must be the same width as the corn planter, or multiple thereof, because the planter will run precisely where the strips are placed (5).