Walking fields with strip-tillers, we’ll often end up in some of their top producing acres, digging our hands into thriving soils checkered with worm holes and covered with decomposing crop residue.
But I really enjoy the opportunity to learn about strip-tillers’ weaker fields and how they are reviving them. Visiting with Nickerson, Neb., farmers Kirk Brand and Brent Willnerd recently, we had the chance to catch a glimpse of progress being made on a plot the farmers started strip-tilling corn and no-tilling soybeans about 4 years ago, after decades of deep tillage.
“It was garbage,” Willnerd says. “The field’s pH levels and phosphorus (P) levels were in the single digits. We started with no-till and cover crops there and then added strip-till.”
Today, Willnerd says corn and soybean yields are comparable to some of their best producing fields, without having had to invest in the same amount of fertilizer application.
“We’re just getting to the point of applying fertilizer regularly, even so, it’s been gaining on our good ground, in terms of yields,” he says. “The combination of no-till, strip-till and cover crops is making a difference. There used to be at least a 30-bushel yield difference on that poor field and our best ones. Now, it’s only 5 or 10.”
Hear more from Willnerd and Brand on how they’ve managed to improve the productivity of other poor-producing fields, along with some early lessons learned in their strip-till system in our latest Strip-Till Farmer podcast.