Keeping microbes happy is a cornerstone of Streator, Ill., strip-tiller Larry Tombaugh’s system. As he says, microbes have a “Dracula complex” and don’t like sunlight.

“They don’t like to be exposed and hate having their houses torn up every year with deep tillage,” Tombaugh says. “They develop symbiotic relationships among themselves and whenever you till the soil, you break up those relationships.”

Larry Tombaugh

Strip-tilling since 1994, Tombaugh has been an advocate and applicator of a variety of soil-enhancing products that used correctly, can boost biological activity and crop performance. Incorporating different combinations including humic and fulvic acid, a compost tea mixture and dry humates.

“We’re applying a combination in-furrow in the starter package I use on my planter that has about 10 components,” he says. “One yield test in 2018 with a 2-gallons per acre compost tea application yielded a 6.2 bushel increase on soybeans at R3 and cost me about $5 per acre. My tests with 10-15 pounds per acre of dry humate in-furrow through the insecticide boxes yielded a 5.2-5.8 bushel soybean increase for about $5 per acre. Any time I can spend $5-$6 and get a $40 or $50 return, I’m all over it.”

During a classroom session at the 2020 National Strip-Tillage Conference, Aug. 6-7 in Omaha, Neb., Tombaugh will provide a detailed look into how his self-described “living laboratory” of nutrient management experiments is stimulating soil health on his farming operation.

The 7th annual National Strip-Tillage Conference will be held at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Omaha LaVista Hotel & Conference Center and feature 2 days of strip-till education through an array of thought-provoking general sessions, strategy-packed strip-till classrooms and highly collaborative strip-till roundtable discussions.

A $35.00 Early Bird Registration discount is available through May 31, and attendees who register their farm and family members receive additional savings. For more information and to register for the conference, visit

Title sponsors making the learning and networking opportunities possible for strip-tillers include AgroLiquidCopperhead AgDawn Equipment Co., Environmental Tillage SystemsIngersollKuhn KrauseMontag Mfg., Orthman Mfg., Schlagel Mfg., Topcon AgricultureVulcan Equipment and Yetter Mfg. Co.  All 12 companies will exhibit during the 2-day educational event.

We’ll see you in Omaha!