Hybrid Tillage System Brings Balance to Soil Health, Production

A combination of strip-till and no-till practices in hilly terrain, along with an advanced fertility program, are helping Iowa grower Bill Darrington create a productive, sustainable growing environment.

One of Bill Darrington’s guiding principles for managing his farm is to treat it like a human being.

The longtime no-tiller and strip-tiller builds his fertilization strategies around the philosophy that like humans, crops need to eat on a regular basis to grow and remain healthy.

“It takes multiple feedings for us to maintain complete nutrition and stay energized,” Darrington says. “It’s the same concept with plants. We know that corn plants determine how many rows will be around an ear at V3 stage, and how long that ear will be at V8.

“It’s all about basic pre-natal care to promote a healthy and happy growing environment to maximize yield potential.”

But he adds that continuously feeding crops fertilizers with potentially harmful elements, or the equivalent of human “junk food,” can stunt plant growth and sterilize soils. The long-term practices of banding fertilizer beneath the soil surface, the use of organic-based nutrients, and multiple, timed applications throughout the growing season have contributed to strip-tilled corn yields over 290 bushels per acre on some of Darrington’s highly variable soils and sidehills.

“We’re very comfortable with our system, even though I know it’s not perfect,” he says. “We do the best with what we have, and I’ve not seen a yield limit on the top side because of our farming practices and goals.”

‘Hybrid’ System

Bill Darrington

LONG-TERM GROWTH. Persia, Iowa, strip-tiller Bill Darrington takes pride in building a balanced and environmentally conscious system to include multiple, timed fertilizer applications, which contribute to higher

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