The 10th annual National Strip-Tillage Conference captured a growing interest in strip-till as over 400 attendees, including 197 first timers, traveled to Bloomington, Ill., for the 3-day event in August. The conference featured 7 general sessions, 11 classroom presentations and 13 roundtable discussions, covering strip-till 101, nutrient management, precision technology, cover crops, soil testing, water management, grazing, compaction, equipment set-ups, weed control and more.

The action kicked off with a special pre-conference workshop at the Precision Planting PTI Farm in Pontiac, Ill. Over 100 growers participated in 3 interactive sessions — a guided tour of the 400-acre farm’s research plots, a strip-till equipment showcase, and a classroom on soil testing and nutrient management strategies.  

“What we’re trying to do on this farm is challenge the status quo,” says PTI Farm manager Jason Webster. “We’re taking everything that farmers are used to doing and comparing it to something else. We’ve tested all the major tillage systems over the last 5 years, and strip-till has been our overall winner as the most profitable system on this farm.”

Hall of Famers. Purdue University tillage and cropping systems specialist Tony Vyn set the stage with a 10th Anniversary Lecture titled “Is Strip-Till Still the Near-Ideal Tillage System?” Vyn shared new data on what’s changed since his first presentation in 2014 and how strip-tillers can capitalize on improved methods.

“I’m confident strip-till leads to higher corn yields, less soil compaction, more uniform plant growth, allows for earlier planting dates and that high banded N and K rates are risky,” Vyn says. “I’m not so confident about getting to lower fertilizer rates, if we can eliminate starter fertilizer, if broadcast fertilizers are never needed, or if we don’t need to change our pH management.”

The retiring professor was inducted into the Strip-Till Hall of Fame alongside Lexington, Ill., strip-tiller Jim Kinsella and Hudson, Ill., strip-tiller Richard Follmer during a special ceremony.  

Nutrient Management Breakthroughs. 2022 National Strip-Tillage Conference Speaker of the Year, Chris Perkins, returned to the 2023 event with fresh perspective on his banded fertilizer approach. The Otwell, Ind., strip-tiller showed how successful nutrient management for corn production is like a season-long, relay race.

“Failing to consider the yield-building nutrient needs of the crop over the last half of the growing race will cost you money,” Perkins says. “For far too long we have been too concerned with kernel counts. They are important, but not having the program in place to finish what you have produced is more of a handicap than that of lower kernel counts.” 

No-Till Innovator Marion Calmer made his National Strip-Tillage Conference debut in 2023, revisiting his vertical nutrient stratification study that shows new promise for strip-tillage as a solution. The independent farm researcher found that 50% of his phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) were in the top 2 inches of his soil. He tried moldboard plowing 1.6 acres to see if plowing would move the nutrients down into the soil profile. Calmer announced that he’s switching to strip-till corn for the first time since 1995 after seeing the results. 

“There was a 9-bushel advantage to destratification with the plow,” Calmer says. “I’m going to make some changes because of this for next year. We’re going to run an Environmental Tillage Systems SoilWarrior this fall. We’re going to mix the nutrients into the root zone where there’s moisture, so we can grow an even better crop. What’s the yield advantage in corn after destratification? I’ll share the fall harvest data from my test plots at the National No-Tillage Conference in January 2024. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a 50-bushel per acre advantage.”

Interactive Sessions. 2023 Strip-Till Innovator Award recipients Ryan and Melissa Shaw of Marlette, Mich., shared an in-depth look at their twin-row strip-till system. The Shaws, alongside strip-till expert Kevin Kimberley, also participated in a live webinar recording hosted by No-Till Farmer’s 2023 Conservation Ag Operator Fellow Loran Steinlage of West Union, Iowa. The theme of the webinar, “What No-Tillers Should Know About Strip-Till,” generated a bevy of questions from the in-person and online audience during breakfast.

Veteran strip-tillers Jon Stevens of Rock Creek, Minn., Larry Tombaugh of Streator, Ill., and Paul Dubbels of Fergus Falls, Minn., closed out the conference with some final words of advice during a workshopping session.

“Stick your neck out there, do whatever you’re going to do next to the highway, and let everybody see what you’re doing,” Dubbels says. 

“Keep on trying stuff,” Tombaugh says.

“Just do it — the cover crops and all the weird things, try it on a small scale,” Stevens adds. “Do your own research, and have some fun with it.”

The 2024 National Strip-Tillage Conference will take place in Madison, Wis. For more information or to register, go to