Soybean School: Learning from strip-till field trials

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Will strip tillage find a home in Ontario soybean fields?

AGRIS Co-operative agronomist Dale Cowan certainly believes there’s a fit. Last June on RealAgriculture Soybean School we visited Cowan in a field of strip tilled soybeans near Mount Brydges, Ont., where Cowan’s brother, Larry and Larry’s son, Chris, of Chimo Farms, had created an integrated strip till program where strip till corn was followed by strip till soybeans.

The twin row, 7.5 inch soybeans were planted on 30-inch centres. Chris Cowan explained that he and his father had several goals for the field experiment in which seed was planted into 10-inch wide strips created the previous fall using a TerraForge strip till unit. The Cowans want to assess the potential for eliminating trash between the rows, as well as a tillage pass. They’re also trying to save time and labour, reduce fuel cost, make their fertility program more effective and increase overall net returns.

How did they make out? In this episode of Soybean School, Dale Cowan tells Bernard Tobin that the strip till field yielded a robust 73 bu/ac and provided strong evidence of how growers can effectively optimize investment in strip till for use in both corn and soybeans. Cowan notes that his team learned much from the field trial, including lessons on planter set-up and the potential for trying a wider strip, and were encouraged by the potential to plant corn and soybeans simultaneously. Story continues after the video.

Besides the benefits of early soybean planting, Cowan also estimates that growers can save up to $40 dollars per acre on equipment ownership costs. “If you can take your existing manpower — a two-man team on a farm — and plant corn and soybeans in a system that’s set up and ready to go for planting and not have to do a lot of spring tillage, you can get a lot done in a day,” he says.

The biggest challenge, however, is a wet fall like 2018. Unfortunately, the wet conditions prevented the Cowans from strip tilling fields for 2019 planting. They’ll try it again this fall.

Click here for more Corn School episodes.

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