Innovate, innovator and innovation are words I find myself coming back to over and over again when writing about strip-tillers. Every strip-tiller is doing something to push the boundaries of yield, meticulous management and environmental responsibility. More often than not, each is one of few farmers in their area who are foregoing tillage (or no-tillage) practices that have been around much longer.
That’s one of the reasons why we love hosting the National Strip-Tillage Conference. Your local strip-till community might be small, but it’s thousands strong across the continent. We hosted more than 350 strip-tillers, agronomists and industry experts in Iowa City to talk about how to refine your strip-till nutrient management, improve the health of your soils and solve those troublesome issues that only fellow strip-tillers will understand.
It only takes a few dedicated strip-tillers to pick up an idea from an event like the National Strip-Tillage Conference and turn it into a regional movement. Jeff Morgan of Case IH dealership H&R Agri-Power tells the story of how a small group of innovators succeeded in spreading strip-till to 6,000 acres of western Kentucky in just 6 years. This area — known as the birthplace of commercial no-till — reached a yield cap with no-till by 2010-12. At the same time, local farmers didn’t want to lose their highly erodible soils in pursuit of yield.
“We were confident in what strip-till was doing in other regions,” Morgan says. “This will drive sustainability into the future, just as no-till did many years ago.”
One very influential manufacturer also seems to be taking note of the increase in strip-till across North America. Our sister publication, Ag Equipment Intelligence (AEI), reports that some Midwest John Deere dealers are currently demoing new John Deere-branded strip-till rigs. One industry expert told AEI a newer machine may signal a legitimization of the strip-till practice, but it could also indicate that John Deere is becoming more responsive to trends, even when machine volumes are not as high as core markets.
While strip-till’s early adopters don’t need Deere to convince them of the benefits of strip-till, if a green strip-till rig is what it takes for other farmers to raise their corn yields by 25 bushels per acre and soybean yields by 9.6 bushels per acre over 2021 USDA averages (a statistic from our 2022 Strip-Till Operational Practices Benchmark Study that I will never tire of reciting) while reducing their input costs and environmental footprint, let’s hope Deere is committed to innovation that isn’t in the form of an autonomous tillage tractor.