Most strip-tillers I visit tend to be loyal practitioners or, at the very least, recent converts who are seeing enough promise to continue their journey. But there are certainly those who struggle and perhaps even question their decision.
At this year’s National Strip-Tillage Conference in Omaha, Elk Point, S.D., strip-tiller Joey Hanson discussed the skeptical side of strip-till during his classroom presentation. Custom strip-tilling more than 20,000 acres during the last 5 years, he’s seen the good, bad and ugly of equipment setups, berm building and fertilization strategies.
Hanson notes that in his experience, he’s seen three types of strip-tillers: Those who want succeed at strip-till and find a way to do it; those who don’t really want to strip-till to succeed, but try it so they can say the tillage system they’ve been using was right all along.
And then there’s the people who have no interest whatsoever in learning a different way of farming.
“Success comes from trial and error and let me tell you what, I’ve done a lot of trial and I’m getting to the point where I can hopefully stay away from some of the error,” he says. “And I’m pretty sure farmers define the term insanity because that’s exactly what conventional tillage is. It’s just doing the same destructive thing over and over every single year and expecting different results.”
Growing up, Hanson says, the family farm was 100% conventional tillage. But trying to understand the justification for it became a point of frustration.
“I just could not wrap my hands around this conventional tillage practice,” Hanson says. “Everybody did it, but it just didn’t make any sense to me — which piece of tillage equipment we were going to go hook onto the tractor to and use this year.
Once Hanson became more active in the farm in 2010, he researched what could be done differently on the farm and that’s what led him to strip-till.
“Going from a completely conventional-tillage system to a complete strip-till system, is a concept change, and it’s something that I had to grab hold of and understand before just jumping in,” he says. “For me, it’s very simple. If you want strip-till to succeed, it will.”
What was your greatest challenge in changing to strip-till? Share your story with me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 262-777-2441.