Returning from the 3rd Annual National Strip-Tillage Conference in Bloomington-Normal, Ill., last week, I’ve had some time to digest the group discussions and one-on-one conversations during the event.
During my opening remarks at the event, I reminded attendees that not every topic presented, or piece of advice shared, would be universally applicable. With strip-tillers and speakers representing more than 20 different states, as well as Canada, Australia and Thailand, there was a wealth of diversity at this year’s conference.
But I’m always impressed by the open-mindedness of the strip-till community. Whenever I heard conflicting viewpoints while walking the halls and sitting in on discussions, those in conversation were never openly dismissive of a practice or perspective.
Strip-tillers should be challenged, now and again, to evaluate their farming system. While I spent some time in a lively roundtable session during the conference, one of the rhetorical questions posed by the moderator was “Why do we strip-till?”
After a few silent moments, the conversation resumed with complex answers to a seemingly simple question. Several Midwestern farmers in the roundtable said they strip-till to warm up the soil in spring, while a handful from more arid states leverage the practice to preserve what little moisture Mother Nature provides.
Banding nutrients beneath the surface was cited as an attraction to strip-till, with multiple farmers sharing horror stories of fertilizer and topsoil washing out after a hard rain in a conventional tillage system.
“It’s all about the fertility,” said Dustin Mulock, a 10-year strip-tiller from Woodville, Ont. “I don’t like wasting nutrients, so usage and uptake are huge benefits of my strip-till system.”
Still more roundtable attendees said they strip-till to make planting easier, by preparing an ideal seedbed and improving seed-to-soil contact. A few others shared their take on transitioning from no-till to strip-till to better manager corn residue each year.
It’s worth noting that the conversation continued well beyond the 1-hour timeframe for the session, with attendees debating, sharing and understanding the deeper meaning of why they strip-till — a question every farmer should ask and answer at some point.
Why do you strip-till? Share your insights with me at (262) 777-2441, or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.