After spending a few days recently at the Agricultural Electronics Industry Foundation’s (AEF) PlugFest, I came away with a renewed sense of how important technology is to the success of strip-till.

Seeing problem-solvers from more than 50 different manufacturers in one room in Nebraska, testing and re-testing various components, ag engineers said their end goal is to simplify functionality for farmers — even if a ‘plug-and-play’ solution may be years away.

Despite the progress of precision farming, there are still strip-tillers who prefer to eliminate the potential headaches associated with technology by more or less avoiding it all together.

Visiting with Wisconsin farmer Alan Sweeney last month, I was caught off guard when we he told me he didn’t use GPS or auto-steer to guide his homemade 12-row strip-till rig across several hundred acres of corn.

“I’m old school and still use markers,” he says. “It doesn’t bother me at all and I like the flexibility and being in control. Even if I had the technology, I’d still have to pay attention.”

While Sweeney uses Raven rate controllers to manage fertilizer flow from his mounted Montag dry fertilizer box to his Dawn Pluribus row units, he doesn’t use swath control on the strip-till rig.

One reason Sweeney hasn’t modernized his operation is that he runs an older John Deere 2-wheel-drive 4755 tractor, and admits it would take time and money to retrofit precision equipment into the cab. Not that Sweeney minds a challenge, but for now, he’s content focusing his energy tweaking his strip-till rig, and steering it the old fashioned way.

“I haven’t seen it hurt my operation,” he says. “I suppose sometime down the line, when I upgrade my tractor, I’ll move that direction. But using markers doesn’t wear on me as much as some guys might think.”

Perhaps there is something to be said for still wanting to feel the steering wheel between his fingers across every strip-tilled acre. But today, tools like auto-steer and GPS are a strip-tiller’s best friends in the field.

As I think more about those ag engineers strategizing ways to make technology more accessible, it seems a shame when it’s not being used by farmers who can benefit from it the most.

What role does precision technology play in your strip-till operation? Call me at (262) 782-4480, ext. 441, or send me an e-mail at