Talk to any strip-tiller, and they’ll give you a long list of benefits of switching to strip-till. They’re doing more with less by slashing their inputs and fuel costs, improving their soil health and water infiltration, and quite possibly gaining yield.
As you’ll see on p. 12, the results of the 9th Annual Strip-Till Operational Practices Benchmark Study show strip-tillers had average yields of 202 bushels of corn and 61 bushels of soybeans in 2021. That’s 25 more bushels per acre than the U.S. average for corn and about 10 bushels more per acre for soybeans. Although a yield bump is neither immediate nor guaranteed, if a conventional farmer is able to increase corn yields by even 2 bushels per acre, they have an extra $14.46 per acre in their pocket in a corn market that’s averaging $7.23 per bushel in 2022. And that’s not even including the significant savings strip-tillers enjoy from using less fuel and fewer inputs.
Many strip-tillers have told me that “strip-till doesn’t work here” is a popular argument against trying the practice, but upon inspection, it’s an argument that doesn’t hold water. You don’t have to look very far to find someone who’s strip-tilling in incredibly difficult conditions. Take Buffalo Lake, Minn., farmer Brian Ryberg, the 2022 Strip-Till Innovator Award winner you’ll meet on p. 6, and Jon Stevens, an east-central Minnesota strip-tiller who joined me in June for the webinar presentation of the 2022 benchmark survey results, as examples.
“I always joke, I’m in the capital city of ‘It don’t work here,’” Stevens told the audience. “I’m strip-tilling and no-tilling, and many of my neighbors still say, ‘It simply can’t work here.’ The seed doesn’t know it’s not in a full-till field. As far as the seed’s concerned, it’s in very light soil that’s warm and dry, and the nutrients are right below just waiting for it.”
Ryberg is also making strip-till — and cover crops — work in Minnesota’s climate. Sometimes all it takes is one farmer trying something new to spur innovation in an entire region. Ryberg knows this first hand as the first farmer to strip-till sugar beets in Minnesota. After neighbors warned him not to try strip-till because it would never work, several are coming around to incorporating strip-till and cover crops in their own operations. Ryberg is doing an impressive job of sharing what he’s learned about strip-till with farmers across the country, and one thing he said about why it’s important for him to mentor others really stuck with me:
“If we truly want to see these practices spread, it’s up to us to share the message and help everybody along.”
I challenge you to ask your neighbors about their excuse for not strip-tilling. If they’re open to the idea but need help to get started, will you be their mentor? And if you’re someone thinking about trying strip-till or looking for guidance to take your strip-till operation to the next level, I invite you to join me and the Strip-Till Farmer staff at the 2022 National Strip-Tillage Conference in Iowa City, Iowa, July 28-29. You’ll be among hundreds of like-minded farmers and industry experts who are there to share their message and more than willing to help you along.