Nora Springs, Iowa farmer Dean Sponheim calls himself an “accidental conservationist,” because he stumbled into strip-tillage by necessity and economics, rather than for reasons of environmental friendliness.
“I have to farm high clays and I was always replanting corn in the spring if we had pounding rains,” says Sponheim. “No matter how dry I worked that ground before I planted it, it would always crust over. I’d heard about farmers in Ohio and Indiana that were strip-tilling and not working the ground in the spring to keep the soil intact so they wouldn’t ruin the soil tilth in the spring.”
Having to replant 7 out of every 10 years, Sponheim had enough. In 1999, he decided to switch from full-width tillage to strip-tilling and he hasn’t looked back. While he had seen good production from conventional tillage, benefits including increased organic matter, superior planting conditions and earthworm activity have him believing that he’s on the right track.
By the early 2000s, Sponheim decreased the ratio of years he’s had to replant…