Even for North America we are Frozen!

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Published January 28, 2021 | By Mike Petersen


May I bring some recent concepts of soil temperature and early plant development in the row crops we plant that Strip Tillage has direct influence upon to you to consider? I have addressed some of this subject in the past in a blog.



Is the Weather outside frightful and the fire inside (in the fireplace) delightful?


As we prepare the seedbed and root zone for the 2021 (yes for those of you that accomplished such in the fall of 2020 too) season we know by research done in the first 12-14 years of this century that a Strip Till System approach warms up quicker and deeper into the soil profile than a Direct Seeding (Zero Till, No-Till). Strip Till has shown improvements to soil warm up against broad acre conventional tillage most likely 1 degree F or so. The how much does depend upon the latitude you are. As those who live in Minnesota, Central Wisconsin, North Dakota, parts of Montana – planting times are bereft with cold soils and for many the older ways usually turned the soils black so they would warm and have what was thought as good seed-to-soil contact. In those climes, Strip Till (in the till zone has measure 3 to 7 deg. F. warmer than under the residue or in a No-Till environment). In Central Iowa the strip till in 2 year studies measured 1 to 3 degrees warmer compared to under the residue or No-Till. In studies in far eastern Colorado over a ten year study we saw 2 to 5 degrees warmer tilled zones each year measured at the 4 inch depth. During that longer study we had cool springs, warm springs and dry springtime conditions. A two year study only gives you a short term picture.


What other than warmer conditions which we as growers want to plant our corn or soybeans or other crop as soon as possible to reach our yield goals? When nutrients have been placed with a strip till implement down between 5 and 10 inches below the surface, none of us want that plant to wait long for the nutrients to be available and spur the plant to grow and take on that “hungry teenage personality”. So much of the nutrient uptake into a corn or bean crop is dependent upon the roots and microbial population being in sync. Those little one celled critters to the tune of billions per tablespoon are not really active until for the most part when soil temps reach 63 degrees F. Not until mid-June do we see soil temperatures below 8-12 inches stay at the 63 degree mark on the thermometer night and day.


Environmental concepts within tillage systems, Courtesy Dr. Wick, NDSU


Watt et al. 2006, determined in a Grains Research and Development Corp research project in Australia that maize roots extended 2.6X more when soils were reaching 84 deg. F than 60 deg F. What does that have to do withy cool soil conditions earlier and strip till? To reach the soil potential and what the soil environment is optimal for above and below ground — we at Orthman see the big value in starting off right each seed that germinates and goes on it’s life path.


In a North Dakota study, Dr. Abbey Wick (2019) shows that looking at tillage systems at one of their SHARE field sites, we can see temperature numbers that show differences that Strip Till is a package to give considerable thought to, especially as we look to spring time and wanting to have a great environment for that newly plant crop to thrive in. What I am saying is, we have to consider how we till soils and how we can positively or negatively impact the soils drives the gears from pre-plant all the way to mid-season folks. We all appreciate Dr. Wicks work in studying systems to optimize the soil conditions for soil protection from erosion, water management, nutrient management and Soil Health.


Annals of Botany. 2006; Vol.97(5): pp839–855.
Rates of Root and Organism Growth, Soil Conditions, and Temporal and Spatial Development of the Rhizosphere


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