Understand that I am, first and foremost, a public researcher. That said, I would like there to be the same buzz and investment in strip-till that there’s been for cover crops and soil health over the last 5 years. 

I believe that one of the constraints in strip-till adoption is overcoming hesitations in making it the dominant system on a particular farm and making it acceptable for all row crops that are grown as the system used for all field conditions.

With better drainage systems and better strip-tilling equipment, we’ve achieved being able the flexibility of strip-tilling more successfully in the spring. But I believe that there still are too many questions associated with higher yielding crops, particularly with high residue levels. We’ve got to deal more aggressively with corn stover management options that will enhance the drying rate and the ideal soil structure for the berms that we create. 

I believe to get to the next level, we’ve got to have a decidedly stronger push from our public institutions, as well as from soil conservation specialists. We should look at ways of not just promoting soil microbial health and soil structure from a water infiltration point of view, but also from the standpoint of efficiently meeting the nutrient needs so that we get the highest yields possible with the least loss to the environment.

Another thing that strikes me as a technology-changer in strip-till would be a successful twin-row planting system, especially for soybeans, and maybe for corn. I’ve noticed in the Strip-Till Practices Benchmark Study that there are strip-tillers who are using 22- or 20-inch systems, but I think there is more to be gained by perhaps working with equipment companies on a system that would allow for twin-row corn because I think it’s the most expedient way of combining the benefits of narrow-row and strip-till.

If we can put that together with the stover processing to get a faster warm up in the spring, then we can achieve more planting date flexibility. We are planting our crops into progressively wetter and wetter spring seasons. 

Having that drying advantage is something that we have to pay more attention to, both in terms of how we do our strip-tillage in the first place, but also in terms of how are we managing the rest of the residue we have from the previous years. 

I also have a sense that while cover crops are intimately tied with no-till systems, that they are too sparingly used when we go into strip-till. Part of our crop diversification feature has to deal with integration of cereal cropping systems more often with a winter wheat and perhaps winter barley or in the more Northern areas spring barley, together with strip-till.

We can get some really nice soil structure with those combinations beginning on a cereal crop stubble. It’s an easier and often more satisfactory berm situation in that environment. The people who struggled this past year with spring strip-till were those who were out there early, who remembered all of the horror of last year’s rain and mudded in their strip-tilled crops. 

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