Organic farming may be gaining traction with the general public as a consumer-friendly option in agriculture, but it’s also drawing interest from commercial producers, as a compliment to conservation tillage practices.
During the 25th Annual National No-Tillage Conference, I had the opportunity to moderate a roundtable discussion with five diverse strip-tillers who spoke about the importance of improving public perception and awareness of why and how they farm.
All agreed that a “show and tell” approach is an effective way to educate the average consumer on the merits and environmental efficacy of strip-till and its sister practices. And another source of ammunition is the adoption of organic methods.
One of the participants, Frankton, Ind., strip-tiller and no-tiller Mike Shuter, is making this transition to organic practices on about 20% of his 3,000-acre corn and soybean operation by 2018.
“Our goal is to implement the system with some of our no-tilled soybeans, strip-tilled corn and cover crops for weed control,” he says. “We’re talking about applying some pelletized poultry manure as a starter fertilizer on some organic acres.”
Shuter expects as they begin incorporating organic practices on a small number of acres, it will have a broader impact on the entire operation. Specifically, he they will likely start no-till drilling more soybeans vs. planting them, as they do now, into cereal rye and then rolling the cover crop.
“I think that will allow the cereal rye to be an organic weed-control source for us,” he says. “We’d still generally keep the same system for strip-tilling corn and no-tilling soybeans, but I feel like with the cover crops we’ve used for the last 8 years, we have fields in the right shape and we ought to be able to make this work.”
Shuter acknowledges that the process will be experimental and, no doubt, be filled with trial-and-error. But he is optimistic that the foundation he’s developed with 30-plus years of conservation tillage have afforded him the opportunity to make a successful transition.
See more from Shuter and the other strip-till roundtable participants with coverage of the candid conversation in the April edition of No-Till Farmer’s Conservation Tillage Guide.
Until then, what organic practices have you incorporated into your strip-till system? Share your story with me at (262) 777-2441, or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.