Strip-till isn’t a one-size fits-all concept.
For starters, there’s a considerable amount of patience and persistence that comes with taking the time to build strips, manage residue and precisely place seed.
One of the questions I’ll ask when visiting strip-tillers is whether their neighbors also subscribe to the practice. Almost every answer I’ve received so far has been a simple “No.”
To each their own, I suppose. But one of the interesting insights I’ve gotten on strip-till adoption from one farm to another, is that the size and scope of an operation can play a role.
During my recent visit with the Ford family in northeastern Illinois, they spoke about the benefits they’ve seen from strip-tilling corn on nearly 2,000 acres for the last 17 years. In their area, combating damp, cool springs is a challenge and strip-tilling in the fall has provided a consistent seedbed, regardless of weather.
But the Fords note that there’s only “pockets” of farmers in their region that strip-till, despite the fact that everyone in their area faces roughly the same weather challenges, year in and year out.
One theory offered by Gary Ford is that the scope of a farmer’s operation could be a determining factor as to how invested — if at all — they’re in strip-till.
“It seems like the strip-tillers are the people with our size operation,” he says. “It’s the large operators that don’t seem to have time for it, or they can’t manage it as well, and I’m not sure if it’s a manpower issue, timeliness or whatever.”
The partnership of precision-farming technology with strip-till certainly minimizes some of burden on operators, but it also takes time to install, calibrate and update hardware or software each season.
In many cases, equipment dealers may handle the technology preparation and maintenance, but operators in the field have to know what to do if they hit a GPS dead zone.
As Dennis Ford puts it, “Strip-till certainly takes more management and more time to do it right. It’s a lot easier to go hire someone to get out in the field and rip up the ground.”
In the coming months, I am planning on visiting a few strip-tillers who farm 4,000 to 5,000 acres. I am anxious to find out how they manage their operation on a large scale, and what tips and advice they have to share, so stay tuned.
In the meantime, drop me a line to chat about how you tailor your strip-till practices to suit the size of your farm operation. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at (262) 782-4480, ext. 441 to share your experience.