By Steven Thompson

Building soil health and reducing nutrient runoff are tenants of a strip-till systems. These benefits were on display during the Rock Creek Watershed project tour this spring in Iowa. 

The Mitchell County Press News reported on the tour which included visits to Osage, Iowa, strip-tillers Wayne Fredericks and Dana Norby. 

Among the farming practices Fredericks uses are strip-till, cover crops, waterway construction, filling of sinkholes, development of pollinator strips and planned construction of a bioreactor this summer, according to the Press News story.

“Tracking organic matter, we have gained at a rate of one-tenth of a point per year," he said. “The soil structure and aggregation is much better and it farms a lot easier.”

Norby, who farms with his brothers, utilize strip-till, no-till and cover crops to improve their farming productivity. Last summer, the Norbys' aerial seeded cereal rye in their fields. The green cover crop emerges before harvest and lies dormant during the winter. Early spring, it begins to grow and 10 days prior to planting the Norbys' spray to terminate the rye.

The farming practice provides roots to prevent water and wind erosion, adds nutrients and aerates the soil, is a weed depressor, develops better soil health and helps recover nitrates that might end up in streams and rivers. “Cereal rye soaks up more nitrates than any other cover crop,” said Norby.

With no-till and strip-till farming and cover crops, Norby said, “Worms do our tillage. We’ve been told we have to plow every 4 to 5 years, but Mother Nature helps to decompose the debris.”

Click here to read the entire Mitchell County Press News article.