Having recently returned from my first Agritechnica farm-equipment show in Hannover, Germany, I had prepared myself in advance for the dearth of conservation-tillage practices and products.
Seeing is believing though, as there was an abundance of deep-tillage implements catering to European farmers who, in some cases, have plowed their fields for hundreds of years with seemingly little or no variance in productivity.
“Areas can raise 200-bushel-per-acre wheat doing what they’ve been doing forever,” said Karl Gossel, a German farmer I met at the show. “Ripping is much easier, and there is very little incentive to change.”
Gossel moved to the U.S. about 30 years ago and saw the value of transitioning to strip-till, primarily to preserve soil structure and minimize erosion. Today, Gossel strip-tills about 600 acres of corn and soybeans near Macomb, Ill.
A scarcity of subsidies for conservation tillage methods, and the fact that most corn grown in Europe is for silage, are limiting factors to widespread adoption of strip-till. However, there could be potential for increased adoption in the near future — albeit not necessarily for the same reasons North American farmers utilize strip-till.
Getting an overview of a half-dozen European strip-till rigs at Agritechnica, one of the common features on each was a fertilizer application system designed for precise placement of liquid manure, or slurry, in the strip.
Current regulations in Germany require that liquid manure be incorporated into the soil within 4 hours of application to limit runoff. In the coming year, that timeframe will be reduced to 1 hour, according to Markus Demmel with the Bavarian State Research Center for Agriculture.
“I think the new regulations will be a driver of strip-till adoption,” Demmel says. “It will be difficult for typical German farmer to make that application and be able to incorporate it into the soil with another pass in that timeframe.
“We may also see an increase in custom strip-till application, and right now, we probably have about 12 custom strip-till contractors applying slurry in Germany.”
Demmel is in the early stages of a research project comparing the value of sidedressing slurry in strip-tilled silage corn with applications in conventional tillage systems using a disc.
“What we’ve seen so far is that in the second year, the strip-till system produced the highest yields, which is encouraging,” Demmel said. “Hopefully, we continue to see positives that will encourage more farmers in this area to adopt the practice.”
What is your primary motivation for strip-tilling? Share your perspective with me at (262) 777-2441, or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.