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Podcast 180: Newly-Released ST Series Strip-Till Applicator

10 Nov 2022  •  Tony Kramer

In this episode, Tony covers the newly released ST series strip-till applicators from John Deere. From nutrient application, to configurations, to tillage reduction, Tony gives us a broad overview of the benefits and options of this equipment. And to top it all off, we dig into the pros of pairing your strip-till applicator with John Deere Precision Ag components.

Want to see the ST Series Strip-Till in action? Watch this video. 

You can find past podcast episodes and view show notes by visiting our Podcast website

Have precision ag questions? We have the answers. Find a specific channel dedicated to answering your precision technology questions: Precision Ag Answers. 

Read the entire transcript from the latest episode,

We're going to be talking about the newly released ST Series strip-till applicators from John Deere. Now, this isn't John Deere's first implement or first applicator in the strip-till market or strip-till kind of practices. In the past, they've offered the 2510S as well as a few other models, but John Deere took this opportunity to change things up a bit and enter this strip-till market in a different form and fashion.

Now, before we dive into just a brief overview of these new ST Series applicators, I just wanted to take a second to take a step back, and let's talk about strip-till specifically. We know, or I know, you know, or those that are in the ag industry, there's many different forms of tillage. Now, each specific practice or operation, or type of tillage does not necessarily meet the needs for every operation. That goes for anything in the ag industry. It is not a one-size-fits-all industry. Every farm is a little bit different. Every region is a little bit different. Every climate is a little bit different. That is why there are so many different types or practices of tillage.

Now, we've got just your typical conventional till where you are tilling every acre of that field. We've got some minimum till. Things like strip-till is actually considered a minimum tillage practice. We've also got a vertical tillage type of minimum till and a few other types out there. Then, of course, we've got no-till where we're not tilling the ground at all. We've got specialized seating equipment that can go right into that ground where we're not tilling anything. Again, keeping in mind that these tools or these different practices are not fit for every operation out there. John Deere has, within their tillage portfolio, we've actually got a very large range of tools that can fit all the different types or different practices of tillage for your farm. That's one of the cool things about the John Deere tillage portfolio is just the different options, the different selections, and the different solutions that we can offer customers and farmers alike.

Backing up to strip-till, one may ask, what is the benefit of strip-till? Why would I want a till in strips versus tilling the whole acreage and or not tilling anything? Generally speaking, if you are going to do conventional till, you are likely broadcast applying your fertilizer. Now with that, with strip-till, now you can strip-till with fertilizer application and you can also strip-till without fertilizer application.

One of the most-- I guess in this area, Minnesota and the Dakotas, can't necessarily speak for the rest of the United States, but generally speaking, if you are going to be strip-tilling, you're probably putting down a nutrient of some sort, whether it be PNK or nitrogen in the form of anhydrous or something dry, that is generally what's going to happen. When you broadcast and you do a conventional tillage application, you are spreading fertilizer across all 160 acres of that field or however big your field may be.

Now, with strip-till, you are only applying fertilizer within that tilled strip. One thing to look at, with the strategic placement of your nutrients, we can now maybe reduce our load of nutrients and or take that same load and just focus it on that tilled strip where we are going to be planting. Those of you unfamiliar with strip-till, where you place these strips is exactly where the planter is going to run.

We're putting the nutrients right where those plants or right where those seeds are going to be. It's that strategic placement of nutrients. The next thing or next benefit or value to strip-till is just that reduction in tillage. We're not tilling that whole acre. We are just tilling where those planted rows are going to be. With that, we are actually improving soil health because we're reducing-- I guess the way you could look at it, we're only tilling about half of the field because, outside of the strips, that soil is staying undisturbed. There's lot of different benefits there. Sometimes in a wet season, that piece off the strip might stay firmer, not as wet. We might be able to get in there when ground conditions in a conventional tillage solution or a conventional tillage practice. Maybe it's a little too wet to get in there, but we could potentially get into a strip-tilled field. Now, again, strip-till is not for everybody. There are definitely areas within the United States or the world where strip-till is beneficial, different crops where strip-till is beneficial, but it does not suit the need of every operation out there.

That's just a little rundown on strip-till and some of the benefits of it and why maybe you want to entertain the idea of moving to strip-till or some strip-till and some conventional till, or some strip-till, some no-till, whatever that may look like.

Moving on, the John Deere ST series strip till applicators, I'm very excited for this product. It adds another piece within the John Deere portfolio to make that portfolio even more robust. Starting out, John Deere has come to market with two different frame options. First, I'm going to talk about the drawn frame options. That's where we've got just your traditional drawbar going back to the tool itself.

Now, on the drawn option, we've got 10 ton of product tanks. That is fully integrated right on the drawbar. We've also got integrated steering, so implement guidance on our drawbar to steer that, to make sure we're getting those strips right where we want them. The other technologies that are integrated on that would be section control, blockage monitors, and then you also get scales on both tanks, the front and the rear tanks, so dual integrated scales on that.

Now, the drawn solution, the drawn tool, comes in 12 or 16 row in a 30-inch configuration. Now, I know that 30 inches does not fit the need for every farm out there. John Deere also is offering an 18-row in 20 or 22-inch row with configuration. A lot of different options there when it comes to the drawn implement. Now, the other one that John Deere is coming to market with is the integral, or what I would consider a three-point mounted toolbar with these row units on it. That one is going to be offered in a 12 or 16-row in a 30-inch configuration. Now, you may ask yourself, why would I go with a drawn versus an integral or an integral versus a drawn? The drawn, of course, you get the integrated product tanks, you get blockage monitors, you get the steering, you get the integrated scales, all of that. Integral, you're, of course, going to get increased maneuverability depending on how you, if you're adding product tanks to that or whatever it may be, but with the integral, you actually have an open platform of what type of product tanks or product caring solutions that are out there, whether you pull a third-party cart behind you, maybe you're just going to pull some anhydrous tanks and you're going to do it that way.

That would be the difference. It's going to be personal preference depending on what you're looking to do and what you're looking to get done. Now, those are just some very basics on the two different frame offerings. The other differences is there's actually two different types of row units and each one is going to be just a little different based on what you're looking to do.

John Deere is offering a coltered row unit and they're also offering a shanked row unit. Now, there's different benefits to each one. I'm going to go through each of those specifically. Starting with the colter solution, one of the things there is obviously early spring. If you're strip-tilling in the early spring, you can get in in wetter conditions with the colter unit versus a shank unit, so depending on the conditions you're working in.

Next one is just going to be efficiency. You can get faster working speeds up to 10 miles an hour with the coltered unit versus the shank unit. Then the other thing is it's going to distribute that fertilizer very evenly across that 8 to 10-inch strip, depending on how wide you want that strip to be. Now, one of the limiting factors with the colter is you are going to only get a working depth or a maximum working depth of about six inches.

Depending again on what products you're looking to do, the amount of tillage you're looking to do, maybe 6 inches is good enough for you and you can benefit from that 10-mile-an-hour travel speed or application speed. Those are going to be some of the differences there. The last one, I guess, the coltered row unit is going to be dry fertilizers only. Now, if you're going to-- I'll talk about it here in a second with the shanked unit. If you're looking to put down liquid or gas, you would need the shanked row unit. That's just an overview of the coltered row unit. Now moving over to the shanked row unit, the two biggest things, I guess, are going to be, you're going to be able to place those nutrients deeper so we can get up to a maximum depth of about 11 inches, and then the other one is going to be liquid or gas fertilizers, I guess you would say. Applying NH3 or anhydrous, if you're wanting to put that down, you are going to need that shanked row unit versus the colter row unit.

There, again, shank versus colter, drawn versus integral. It really comes down to personal preference, what you're looking to get done on your operation and what makes the most sense for your soil conditions, your nutrient management practices, all of that stuff. The last thing before I move on to the precision solutions, you also get air-adjusted row cleaners, which are adjustable in cab.

Now, those come on the shank row unit as well as the colter row unit, both drawn and integral. Those air-adjustable row cleaners come on their standards. That is something that is a solution for all the different versatile options. Now, the last thing I want to touch on that-- again, just a very brief overview of this tool is the precision ag solution. Of course, with this being a John Deere strip-till unit, we want you to pair this up with a John Deere tractor.

When you do that, when you pair it up with a John Deere tractor, John Deere Precision Ag component, you benefit from a lot of the John Deere integrated technologies. First one being, obviously, you get the John Deere AutoTrac. With John Deere AutoTrac and the Automation 4.0 activation within our Gen 4 displays, we are going to unlock things like auto path recording. We are able to use this as a source operation for our planter.

We can go out and we can put down those tillage strips and document auto path so that when our planter comes along, the planter can follow those strips exactly. It knows right where we need to be, right where we want it to be based on guess rows, things like that. Using strip-till as an auto path source operation for our planter is going to benefit us. The next thing we get with that Automation 4.0 activation is, of course, AutoTrac Turn Automation. When we're putting down these strip passes, we are able to automate our turnaround on the headlands every single time.

That strip-till applicator is lifting and lowering that implement at the exact same time. Every turnaround, it is making the exact same light bulb turn or if you do a skip pass turn, it's doing that at the same time every single time. Efficiency, productivity, all play a factor in that. Then the last thing is, of course, we benefit from that JDLink connectivity. We are able to see this data in the Operation Center. We are able to see our machine information in the Operation Center. It all comes full circle with all of the precision ag solution offerings when we pair this up with a John Deere tractor and or John Deere solutions or technology solutions. A lot of benefits there when it comes to pairing this tool with John Deere machinery and technology.

Hope this was helpful for you guys. Again, it was just a very quick overview of the new ST Series strip-till applicators. If you've got more questions or you are curious about these, stop into your local RDO Equipment dealership, or if you're out of the area, of course, stop into your local John Deere dealership. They should be able to get you more information. With that, hope this was helpful. We will catch you on the next one.

Please take a moment to subscribe to this podcast if you haven't already. You can subscribe to the show on the many different podcasting apps that we're streaming this out to, such as Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify, as well as many others. While you're out there, drop us a review. We'd love to hear what you think about this show. Lastly, make sure to follow RDO Equipment Company on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. You can also follow me on Twitter @RDOTonyK.

Tony Kramer

Tony Kramer is the Product Manager of Planting Technology and a Certified Crop Advisor at RDO Equipment Co. He is also the host of the Agriculture Technology podcast. If you have any questions for Tony or would like to be a guest on the podcast, you can find him on X at @RDOTonyK.

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