My journey into conserving soil and building a resilient soil system has been an adventure in experimentation and learning. I first learned about strip-till when I visited a colleague’s farm to view a new way of working soil to prepare for corn planting.
The alpha and the beta models of what was to become my strip-till rig of choice were displayed. I looked at the row units of rotating discs that penetrated the soil, lifting and forming a berm of soil. I knew this was the way to go, but how to pay for the new machine was a bit daunting.
After a couple appointments at my local NRCS agency it became clear there was good incentive to make the leap. The programs at the time, were very helpful so I signed up for a 5-year CSP (Conservation Stewardship Program) contract. I am now in my second 5-year CSP contract and over the course of the last 10 years, I have learned, tweaked, adjusted, consulted and collaborated with my farmer colleagues, and have been very satisfied. (You will note that I did not include any cuss words.)
Most farmers like to talk nuts and bolts so here goes. My strip-till rig had been used as a demo machine with an 8-row configuration. It carried a dry fertilizer tank and air delivery system.
I chose to go with the single, aggressive ripple coulter followed by the two large containment discs. No row cleaners, no shanks, no mole knives and no rolling crumbler baskets. I have found that simple works even in fields where I grew 6 years of continuous corn.
When I traded planters and upgraded to a 12-row, I added 2 additional row units at the end of each wing of my strip-till rig. I didn’t have to weld on additional steel, just the flange plates and additional plumbing and I was ready to go with 12 rows.
“To be sure, strip-till will build soil and save money. But a bigger reason is to share the commonalities with other producers and continue the learning adventure.” — David Legvold
Travel speeds can range from 4 to 9 mph without running short on power. I find the limiting factor is what your kidneys can stand. I document fuel use carefully and find that 0.65 gallons per acre is the usual fuel usage. And no tractor payments is good for the bottom line. Enough nuts and bolts?
In addition to qualifying for CSP , I have discovered that strip-till brings other benefits and I draw inspiration from other conservation-minded producers. Through the years of my strip-till adventure, I have been called on to answer questions posed by farmers who are considering the leap to strip-till. I have spoken with farmers from North Dakota to Pennsylvania and Minnesota to Oklahoma. Each person has his/her own specific needs so I have learned to keep still and listen to their adventures.
I always believe I benefit the most from these conversations as we share ideas. To be sure, strip-till will build soil and save money. But a bigger reason is to share the commonalities with other producers and continue the learning adventure.