Make 2019 the year you have a serious look at strip-till

Looking to reduce establishment costs, improve your soil and save some time? Then have a look at strip-till in 2019. 

Check out this one on our Sydney Basin, NSW demo site.

Strip-till is being used in a range of vegetable row crops such as sweet corn, beans, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, pumpkins, zucchinis and beets. 

The main suppliers of strip-till gear in Australia include Orthman, Niffty Ag, SlyFrance and Kuhn Krause. In selecting strip-till look for service and costs, construction and durability, weight, shank reset, strip width, ease of adjustment and fertiliser application options. 

The horsepower needed to pull strip till gear is a minimum of 20 hp per row unit. This will vary upward if you have compact soils and/or place the ripping shank deeper (up to 35 hp per row unit). So for a 3 bed system with 6 rows roughly a 120-210 hp tractor would be required.

Your standard sowing or transplant gear can be used without modification, a big advantage of strip-till where tillage is targeted to the zone where your crops are planted. Figure 1 below shows a freshly strip-tilled soil following mulching of the previous brassica crop.

Figure 1: Freshly strip-tilled soil following mulching the previous brassica crop at the Sydney Basin demonstration site

How does it reduce establishment costs and save you time?

  • Go from previous crop to ready to plant in a single pass, saving 2-4 passes
  • The one pass is fast – ground speed of 8-10 km/hr
  • Reduces fuel costs – reduced passes, no PTO load, fast ground speed
  • Wider range of soil conditions – able to get on paddock sooner after rain. 

How does it improve soil health?

  • Only cultivates 40-60% of the soil – leaving soil biology to build and stabilise soil structure. Already we are seeing worms returning at the Sydney Basin demo site
  • “Softer” tillage in the strips – enough tillage to get good crop establishment without beating the soil
  • Keeps soil in the paddock – reduces erosion during heavy rainfall and sand blast in wind
  • Makes cover crops management easier
  • Slow release of organic nutrients inter-row – less leaching and acidification
  • Inter-row ground cover holds soil moisture – more even seasonal moisture.

Figure 2: Corn strip-tilled into brassicas with crop residues mulched at the Sydney Basin demonstration site

What challenges are there?

  • Cost – each row unit is around $7,000
  • Fertiliser placement is important – need to band fertiliser in strip to get best result
  • Managing crop and cover crop residues – need to get the sweet spot of the amount of residues that can be effectively managed
  • Understand the gear – set-up should be adjusted to your soils and residue level for best results. This is typically not hard. 

What growers are saying after using strip-till 

“Faster turnaround between crops.”

“Soil seems to hold up better after heavy rain.”

“Should have done this a long time ago.”

“Logistically strip-till is way better than conventional cultivation.”

“Don’t have to beat soil dead to get the next crop in.”

Interested in try strip-till on your farm?

and we will arrange a demo unit.