Strip-Till Guidlines


This week, I’ve spent a lot of time researching and attempting to write a comprehensive article on the practice of Strip-Till.  It’s no excuse, but it is the reason why I’ve been lagging behind in my posts this week.  Over the past three years, I’ve watched (and spoken with) numerous producers from around the country who have succeeded in implementing Strip-Till into their production strategies.  The following is a synopsis of what has worked for them.

It must first be stated, that StripTill has caught on in numerous sections of the country for various reasons.  That is, farmers in states farther north, such as New York and North Dakota, have different primary reasons for incorporating Strip-Till into their production strategies than farmers in Nebraska and Kansas.  Reasons for incorporating a Strip-Till strategy include faster warm-up of the seed bed (vs. No-Till), decreased production costs in fuel and fertilizer (vs. Conventional Tillage), moisture conservation (vs. Conventional Tillage), erosion control (vs. Conventional Tillage), and better residue management (vs. N0-Till).  Strip-Till truly is a middle ground between Conventional and No-Till practices, allowing producers to obtain certain advantages of both.  But with so many different reasons for incorporating it into a production strategy, Strip-Till means many different things to many different people.


The question most often asked by those trying to learn more is: “What is Strip-Till?”.  Most experts agree that Strip-Till is the practice of placing a strip no more than ten inches wide, and three to four inches tall, into the field; and then planting directly on top of the placed strip.  Consult local sources, but in some cases these measurements are critical in order to qualify for state Strip-Till programs.  Where opinions on the definition differ is what kind of nutrient to place at the bottom of the Strip, the type of equipment to use, and when to use it.

Nutrient Placement – A wide variety of nutrient types are placed 6-8 inches deep in the strip.  Of course, the amount of nutrient depends on what the crop will need next season, and the type is a function of what form is readily available in the area and price.  Soil type obviously plays a role in nutrient placement as well.  Some producers will inject N, P, and K.  Others will opt for just P & K, leaving the nitrogen application to be applied with the planter, or in side dress applications.  Most producers agree that fertilizer rates can be cut with Strip-Till applications when compared to broadcast fertilizers, because of the fertilizer’s proximity to the roots.  Those using precision Strip-Till applicators will employ variable rate applicators and apply based on prescription.

Types of Equipment to Use – There are many Strip-Till tools currently on the market.  Most employ either a deep Sub-Soiler Shank, or a standard fertilizer shank within their row unit configurations.  If you are going to Strip-Till, consider purchasing one from a manufacturer.  Farmers rarely succeed in building one themselves.  A section on what to look for can be found below.

When to Strip-Till – Most experts agree that Strip-Till is a practice that should be done in the fall.  This allows time for the strip to settle and mellow throughout the winter.  It also gives time for the fertilizer (placed in the strip) to disburse in certain soil types, reducing the risk of fertilizer burn on young root systems.  However, practicality overrules idealism in some areas; especially in those where winter comes early on wet clay soils and time dosen’t permit fall application.  If you live in an area where Spring Strip-Till is a must, consult local experts on the best way to proceed with your production strategy.


Strip-Till areas of the country can be broken down into the four areas shown above.  Please keep in mind that this map is simplified for purposes of explanation.  For example, a farmer in South Dakota may use Strip-Till for erosion control, moisture conservation, and faster warm-up.  The map simply defines areas where Strip-Till is used, and the primary use for it in that area.  Knowing that the primary reasoning behind Strip-Till may be different in different areas, we can begin to examine the components used in Strip-Till and the reasons behind the use of each.


Strip-Till Component Options

Strip-Till Components usually include (from front to back) a large coulter at least 20″ in diameter to cut residue, a residue manager to sweep away residue and provide a cleaner strip, a shank style conducive to stirring the soil and breaking up compacted layers where necessary, covering disks at least 17″ in diameter for filling and hilling the disturbed area, and a rolling basket to assist in firming and shaping the newly formed seed bed.

Shank and Point (Knife) Styles – Shanks are a vital component to the Strip-Till operation.  They place nutrient at the desirable depth (6-8 inches) and stir more soil for better warm-up.  In my opinion, Strip-Till equipment without a shank dosen’t do the same job.  Shank styles vary from the typical 1×2 flat fertilizer shank (max depth 8-10 inches) to Sub-Soiler shanks (max depth 18-20 inches).  The key to choosing the correct shank lies beneath the surface of your soil.  If your soil is prone to compaction, you must first gauge where the compacted layer(s) is.  For example, if compacted layers lie beneath the ten inch line you will want to consider a Sub-Soiler shank to break up the compacted layer while Strip-Tilling in a one pass operation.  Points for Sub-Soiler shanks vary, and do different jobs in varying soil types.  Common points are 2″ to 3″ flat or humped points depending on soil type and the amount of fracture you want to achieve.  Stay away from Sub-Soiler points that have wings, as they can do more harm than good in certain soil conditions.  If compacted layers are above 10 inches, or you have no compaction, a typical fertilizer shank will work just fine.  Knives for Strip-Till fertilizer shanks are commonly found to have a 1 to 1.5″ foot on the bottom.  These are typically referred to as mole knives and do a very good job in stirring up the soil in the strip.

Coulters and Residue Managers – The coulter is another vital component to the Strip-Till process.  At 5 miles per hour, a new series of residue will be processed through a Strip-Till row unit roughly every half of a second.  This will vary depending on the distance between the front of the row unit and the back of the row unit.  Because there are so many components involved in the process, cutting the residue first is a necessity.  Residue Managers assist in this process by sweeping the residue out of the row after it is cut, allowing the shank, hillers and baskets to have a cleaner path to work with.  They are nice to have on any Strip-Till machine, but are more important in areas where warming up the seed bed is a must.  The Residue Manager should be behind the coulter to sweep away residue afterit is cut.  Placing a Residue Manager before the coulter moves the residue away from the coulter blade, this keeps it from being cut and can result in plugging problems around the shank and hillers.

Hillers – Ideally, Hillers should be free floating (no down pressure) without springs.  This allows any remaining residue to flow more easily between the gap in the hiller blades without plugging.  Additionally, hillers with down pressure have been known to cause trenching on both sides of the strip.  This is particularly challenging in hills, as water can run down the created trenches (instead of soaking in) during significant rainfalls.  Flat Blades (instead of concave) can also assist in reducing the amount of trenching in a field.  In addition to this, they normally cost less than concave blades.  Again, Hiller blades should be at least 17″ in diameter.

Rolling Baskets – In fall Strip-Till operations, where a good freeze-thaw process occurs, baskets are optional.  Normally a strip will settle over the winter from 3-4 inches to 1-2 inches and any clods left in the strip by the shank and sealers will have mellowed.  Baskets in the fall become more important where the winters are mild, or where winter comes on too fast and a producer finds it necessary to finish up in the spring.  Baskets in spring operations are a necessity in order to produce a settled, mellowed, seed bed prior to planting.

Considerations Before Purchasing

Several considerations (other than soil type, climate zone, and residue situation) should be made before purchasing a Strip-Till implement.  These all have to do with the implement itself, and can be summarized into three categories:  1) Is the machine easy to operate?  2)  Is the machine easy to maintain?  3) Will it work for me?  All of these can be ascertained by doing a small amount of homework including reading literature on the product, calling the manufacturer, and looking at the product during a farm show or demo.

Is The Machine Easy To Operate – The primary concern here is the versatility of the implement.  Can it do a similar job in varying soil conditions and residue situations?  After all, residue situations vary from year to year; or you may rent a new piece of ground that has a different soil type and moisture content.  Can it be adjusted to handle various types of soil and residue situations?  How easy are these adjustments to make?  How forgiving are the components in differing soil types and residues if your going between fields and don’t have time for adjustments?

Is The Machine Easy to Maintain – This is where many Strip-Till Implements fall short.  Just by walking around farm shows and reading literature, I’ve found many that don’t make the grade.  One has a decal on each row unit that shows 18 grease points per row…all must be greased daily!  Many have five or six springs per row…that’s 60 or 72 springs on a 12 row implement that must be maintained and (eventually) replaced.  Be sure to look for maintenance nightmares in literature and at farm shows to be sure that you won’t spend more time in the shop than in the field.  If you can get a look at an operators manual, you will find clues there as well.

Will It Work For Me – One of the most important things to consider when making your choice in Strip-Till implements involves the experience of the manufacturer.  How many years have they been making ground engaging fertilizer application equipment.  Watch out for companies that did not make fertilizer application equipment before they started making Strip-Till machines.  Also watch out for companies that did not make ground engaging equipment before they started making Strip-Till machines.  Choosing a Strip-Till implement that is produced by a company that has experience in fertilizer application will help ensure that your fertilizer is placed at the proper depth, and evenly across the rows.  Choosing one that has experience in ground engaging equipment will help to ensure that the Strip-Till row units will function properly in yourtillage scenario.  Two companies (there are others) that were making both fertilizer applicators and ground engaging equipment long before Strip-Till was around are BLU-JET and DMI

Additional Considerations – Make time to attend a field demonstration of the Strip-Till equipment you are considering.  Better yet, try to schedule your top two or three choices to come demo on your farm.  Normally, Strip-Till manufacturers (or their representatives) can bring a smaller size demo unit out to your farm and show you how it works.  This also provides you an opportunity to solicit operating tips for your particular soil type, residue situation, and climate zone.  Be wary of a company that will not demo their equipment. 

Additional Note:  A demo at your farm doesn’t consist of 500 acres.  Usually a few passes is enough to tell whether you will be happy with the implement.


The consensus across the country is that Strip-Till works.  Producers who hire custom Strip-Till work can see a return of anywhere from $6 to $16 per acre after costs.  Several operational considerations need to be made depending on your location.  Consult local agronomy experts to determine fertilizer rates and types that will work best for you.  When considering equipment, keep in mind that a manufacturer’s experience may be the difference in success or failure.  If you speak to a company representative, ask for the “Strip-Till expert” to make sure you are getting the best information.  Attend a demonstration of the equipment before to buy to make sure it will work the way you need it to.  


Explore posts in the same categories: Agriculture, Farm Equipment, Farming, Strip Till

20 Comments on “Strip-Till Guidlines”

  1. Lynn Flaming Says:

    I have 8 years of positive experience using strip-till exclusively on 2500 acres of primatily continuous irrigated corn with some soy-corn rotation. We also utilize strip-till on dryland corn production in wheat stubble.

    Strip-till has both lowered my cost of production, but also increased my yields.

    I disagree that a free floating closing disk is preferable to a fixed one. It may be OK if running in the fall in soybean stubble, but will not close the shank trench adequately in heavy cornstalks running in the spring. The Orthman one-tRIPr clearly produces a superior seedbed to the machines you mentioned. Keep in mind that you get one chance to crush clods. If you wait they turn into dirt rocks and allow airpockets and let moisture escape.

    Much good information is available at

    I agree that watching a machine operate is very helpful. Watch the seedbed!

  2. reportcard Says:


    Thank you for your comments.

    I’ve seen the 1-tRIP’r run in field demos, sometimes successfully and sometimes unsuccessfully. I haven’t spoken to anyone who’s actually owned one before, which is why I have a hard time recommending it. As for the 1-tRIP’r making a superior seedbed, this has not been my experience. I’ve seen it make just as good of a seedbed in certain situations, but not a superior one. It also still seems imperative to me that if one is putting fertilizer down while Strip-tilling he do it with a machine made by a company that has experience in building fertilizer application equipment.

    I saw the DMI and the BLU-JET get through, with no problem, in a field demo done on 2nd year corn-on-corn residue earlier this fall. All others, and I won’t mention names, plugged and became dump rakes. There were 8 machines total at this demo, and it was a little wet to be running. All that had a parallel linkage system on them seemed too cramped together to handle the heavy residue.

    I agree with you on the closing disk needing to be fixed IF the Strip-till applicator has a larger, deep-till like, shank like the 1-tRIP’r and the Redball. However, that shank is not necessary in most soil conditions when a simple anhydrous shank will ensure good shatter and good fertilizer depth placement. Additionally, one can change knives to match spring soil conditions more easily with an applicator that uses an anhydrous shank. To my knowledge, the 1-tRIPer only has one tip for its Strip-till shank. Please let me know if it has more.

    Did you know that is a web site put up and maintained by Orthman Manufacturing Company, makers of the 1-tRIP’r? It has good information on the site, but I worry about it being slanted toward Orthman products because of its funding base.

  3. Mike Says:

    I was reading the note Lynn F. provided and I concur. I would like to add something, yes the website is maintained by the Orthman scientist – me, however we are trying to put out lots of information irregardless of machinery color. Yes we have belief that the 1tRIPr is one of the most sound tools on the market. As you see many other companies are in the fray and doing well, we believe growers make their own decisions in what is factual or not. I have been a scientist for over 35 years and work diligently to provide factual material as I did with USDA and now with Orthman. Please continue to watch what we put into the publics eye on
    Your question if we have alternatives to the mole shank presently attached on our 1tRIPr; yes we can accomodate such. In regards to fracturing with an anhydrous knife; the 5/8ths of an inch shank does not fracture a width of more than 2 inches width. In more moist conditions the anhydrous knife may cause a slot and not enough tilling for the establishment of a good seedbed. In the central corn belt that could be a detriment. After studying compaction for 22 years in western KS, eastern CO and western NE subsequent rootzones that are to develop for 200-250 bu/ac corn crops, folks with such a knife have had some issues. Early rootzone development in corn as well as soybeans rely upon a good start of rooting in the first 25 to 35 days after emergence. If the area broken up does not offer the early root system as much of a chance. Larger root systems are a major component of what I have researched for the past 7 years and seen the correlation to yield and better crops. Depth, speed, and power have a lot to do with alleviation of compaction plus soil moisture content as the most important concept. Too moist, above 60% of Field capacity the soil will not respond very well at all. 50% and under, even closer to 40% of F.C. soils shatter almost exploding to give the desired result of changing compaction and soil tilth.
    We will do our best to provide factual information, what we are doing and other researchers results out in the states whether it is green, blue, red or purple. Thanks.

  4. reportcard Says:

    Thanks for the great information Mike. As I told Lynn, I’ve never spoken with an owner of an Orthman before, and I now know much more about the product. I continue to distrust the larger shank, however. I’ve seen anhydrous shanks with mole knives shatter just fine, and much more than the 2″ width you’re discussing with a standard anhydrous knife.

    Please forgive me if I continue to believe you may be a little biased. After all, when I go to your web site, what I see are pictures of Orthman equipment, Advertisements for Orthman StripTill, A color scheme reflecting Orthman green, and a company history of Orthman Manufacturing. I’ll admit it’s subtle, but it’s there. No matter how much you claim to be unbiased, actions speak louder than words.

    I invite you to prove me wrong. Please give me the link, or several links, on your site where competitive Strip-till products are mentioned and pictured in a favorable light. I’ll be happy to apologize should I be wrong.

  5. Mike Says:

    Now I will not lie, we maintain the Website and it has our color. This is not an site for touting our competitors over Orthman products. But we want folks that are looking at the strip-till system to look at the merits of strip-tillage, it precision tillage offerings, precise placement of fertilizer, a great seedbed and good start to rooting. You are not wrong in your comments that it has Orthman bias. But would Redball advertise Orthman over their units? Would Case-IH want to say Orthman has what you need behind a red tractor? We would like folks to make their choice on the merits of the tool that fits their management style, dollars to spend, their desires for tillage, residue and cropping system. Will it always be Orthman? I am not omniscent.

    I do ask of you to look at other sites from Case-IH-DMI, Redball, Yetter, Bingham Bro’s, KMC and so on – what you will find is good marketing. Strip-tillage has far reaching effects for high residue farming, fertilizer placement, seedbed prep, maintaining the opportunity for farmers to be in USDA-NRCS Environmental Quality Incentive Programs, reduce erosion from both wind and water, soil quality improvements, wildlife habitat, snow catchment and so on. As we concentrate on offering that to growers plus the concept that they can improve their bottomline and do a great thing for the natural resource, we all win. All of us who compete for the farmers eye and eventual dollar are building tools to give them what I just mentioned would you not agree?

  6. reportcard Says:


    I appreciate your candor. Of course it would not be expected that Orthman would fund a site that advertises competitors. The concern was that statements such as the following:

    We will do our best to provide factual information, what we are doing and other researchers results out in the states whether it is green, blue, red or purple.

    could be read by some as an unbiased opinion which, by the way, recommends a certain type of machinery. In my opinion, it’s a fantastic site and it’s okay that it has an Orthman bias. Your previous comment seemed to present it as an unbiased site, (perhaps I read you wrong?) and presenting a site as unbiased when it certainly has some bias is what I had a problem with. I’m glad we could get it straightened out.

    As to your final question, I would agree that these companies are building tools that attempt to give the farmer exactly what you mentioned. As to that, I’ve found through attending field demos and speaking with equipment owners that the BLU-JET and DMI seem to accomplish this the best in varying residue and soil conditions.

  7. Mike Says:

    Have you read some of the articles we have put up on the Website? Some of those articles are from competitors tools. The article from Iowa State Extension Service had other tools used. Eastern Kansas article 9/23/06 used varying tools, and the Farm Futures article 10/18/06 depicts a Redball unit which is a good tool also. So how I tried to phrase it that factual info will be placed on the Website despite color goes that way I believe. Some articles I have considered posting has to meet some other guidelines.

    I hope between us, we can further strip-tillage systems. There is a lot of information out there and some only focus on yield and whether or not X vs Y vs Z outyielded the other. We can all further the cause when we help growers make management desicions on inputs lessened and profit margins improved. For the farmer with cattle he/she will look at some of the functioinality of this system different than the corn-soybean farmer of the CornBelt area. I hope your website continues to offer material for our customers the grower that gives them sound choices and facts. Thanks.

  8. dan Says:

    we have a 8rn no-till planter with dry and liquid fert.we are cosidering strip till.Is there advantage to having fert on strip-tiller rather than planter.we are going to run a single disk dry fert coulter and a single wavyb behind which 28% will be applied.Any suggestions.Thanks Dan in ONTARIO CANADA

  9. reportcard Says:


    The real answer is to put fertilizer on with both. A majority on with your Strip-tiller and starter on with the planter. This is assuming, of course, that strip-till is done in a separate pass than panting. I like to see the primary fertilizer placed in the Strip between 6″ and 8″ deep using the Strip-till bar as opposed to using the planter. The exact depth will depend some on soil type, but what you’re looking for is the roots of the plant to hit the fertilizer in the four leaf stage (V-4).

    In my experience, this can be accomplished easiest with a shank style strip-tiller. If it were me, I’d forget about trying to place fertilizer with a coulter and go with a shank. The shank style strip-tiller places the fertilizer 6″ to 8″ deep while fracturing the future root zone, allowing young roots to get down to the fertilizer easier by V-4. The fracture of the soil with a shank will also allow faster warm up of the strip when compared to a coulter unit. This happens because the shank style loosens more dirt at greater depths than a coulter style, this allows heat to penetrate the soil at a faster rate.

    Hope this helps.

  10. Lori Young Says:

    where did the image of the the united states that indicated the areas and reasons to strip-till originate from?

  11. Scott Kent Says:

    We are looking to move to strip till.We have gently rolling hills where some countoring is needed.We would like to talk to someone with some experience in this.

  12. reportcard Says:


    The map image itself came from a presentation originally given by Andy Anderson to a No-Till conference in IA. Andy was the Vice President of Marketing for Thurston Manufacturing Company at the time. Thuston Manufactures BLU-JET Products, I also borrowed the picture of the StripTill rig from their web site.


    Thank you for your questions, I’ve contacted you privately via email to inquire a little more about your location. If you haven’t already, please check your email.

    I hope you both will please accept my apology on the tardiness of the reply.

  13. farmin64 Says:

    We have used strip-till for the last 7 years. The last 2, we have used the orthman 1tRIPr(apply n and dry). This has been the best overall applicator we have used. We initally used a DMI that did not make a real good strip. We then used a Redball, which had problems with corn stalks, and dirt build-up on the disks. The Orthman has worked wonderful (even in less than ideal conditions).

  14. Lincoln Davy Says:

    I came across your strip till unit 1rtRIPr Ar.
    I like the unit but I need more information.
    I live in Jamaica; do you have an agent here?. If you do please give me the information.
    I was in sugar cane but I want to put in some vegetables. How would I prepare the land before using the 1rtRIPr Ar?. My soil type is clay/loam.

    I have a Ford 6610S, 80hp,(not turbocharged),could it carry two 1rtRIPr Ar.

    Awaiting your response.

  15. Draisoriads Says:

    Lots of people blog about this subject but you said really true words!

  16. willie Says:

    i bould my oun striptill and juse jour informasion thanks

  17. Fourie Scheepers Says:

    We use 1tRip Orthman now for two years in different soil types . In soils with high clay it works very well but in sandy loam soils we want deeper pentration – about 650 mm – what are the other options? The Orthmann -springs do not last !

    • Anonymous Says:

      Hello Fourie,

      Thank you for the comment.

      If I’ve done the conversion correctly, the depth you’re trying to achieve is equivalent to roughly 25 inches. I’m sorry, but I’m not familiar with a StripTill product that will achieve this depth.

      Where are you from? Do you have a compaction layer just above 650mm that you are trying to eliminate? Normally, here in the U.S., we would run only 150mm to 200mm deep unless we have a compaction layer that’s deeper we are trying to eliminate. Just curious.

      You might find a deeper knowledge base and be able to find a better answer at but I’m happy to try and continue to help any way I can.

  18. I’m not sure why but this web site is loading very slow for me. Is anyone else having this issue or is it a problem on my end? I’ll check back later
    and see if the problem still exists.

  19. Thanks for helping me learn more about Strip-Till. I didn’t know that this is a practice that should be done in the fall so that the strip can settle and mellow in the winter. I’m interested to learn if the exact time the tillage should be done would depend on the climate of the area.

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