Visiting with strip-tillers in different parts of the country, and especially in the Midwest, I always ask about adoption of the practice in their area. More often than not, there’s at least a pocket of like-minded strip-tillers in the neighborhood.
But this isn’t always the case, especially in states where strip-till isn’t as popular. This is certainly true in Pennsylvania, which isn’t known as a strip-till hotbed. However, this is something part-time strip-tiller Scott Hoober is hoping to change, as operations manager at Hoober Inc., a farm equipment dealership based in Intercourse, Penn.
“We’re not the Midwest, and people had always told us that fall strip-till wouldn’t work here because our climate is too warm and our soils are too porous,” Hoober says. “Any fertilizer we’d apply in fall strips wouldn’t survive because our soils can’t hold it.”
But Hoober still wanted to find an alternative to conventional tillage or even no-till practices and better incorporate fertilizer beneath the soil, while maintaining a residue cover on top of the soil. So several years ago, he began experimenting with spring strip-till, using a homemade rig and partnering with a local fertilizer retailer to supply a liquid potash and phosphorus blend that could be applied beneath the soil through a control system on the rig.
Working with a handful of other local farmers, Hoober is compiling data to document the successes — and ongoing challenges — of adopting a spring strip-till system in the area. Early returns show strip-till has helped warm up soils faster ahead of planting and improved water infiltration.
“We feel strip-till could be a real significant movement in this area,” says Hoober, who is helping develop a custom strip-till rig using just coulters. “Being less invasive with our soils is something that farmers are starting to pay more attention to in our area.”
The dealership hosted its first strip-till event last summer and Hoober hopes to continue promoting the practice. However, he acknowledges that there is skepticism as to whether strip-till can thrive in the region.
Hoober says he understands the apprehension among farmers, but he hopes to gradually convince them that strip-till has a place in Pennsylvania.
“Farmers want to know, ‘Will this work on their farm?’ because they think it’s only for Nebraska or the Midwest,” Hoober says. “I think it can in our area and I hope to see growing adoption in the coming years.”
Is the adoption of strip-till growing in your area? Share you thoughts with me at (262) 782-4480, ext. 441, or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.