Farmers expect 'unbelievable' profits from strip-till
Farmer Doug Seltz says he expects "unbelievable" 40 percent returns from his latest investment -- a strip-till system. Iowa State University data suggest the return on his conservation tillage system will be higher.
Seltz, and his brother Kirk, recently bought a $90,000 strip-till system for their family's 2,100-acre Webster County farms. Figures adapted from ISU Extension's 2008 Iowa Farm Custom Rate Survey report show their system will save them more than $80,000 in tillage and fertilizer costs by 2010. That suggests in only two years they will save enough production costs to get back all but $9,800 of their equipment investment.
These cost savings estimates do not include state and federal incentives they may be able to receive for converting to strip-till.
District Conservationist Denis Schulte, with U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Fort Dodge, says strip-till is a conservation tillage system that offers producers reduced input costs, financial incentives and the potential for increased yields in dry years.
The cost savings can be substantial. ISU figures say strip-till can save producers $50 an acre per year over conventional tillage in a two year corn-on-corn rotation, says Schulte. "A 100-acre field strip-tilled means the producer will likely save $5,000 per year over the costs of conventional tillage," he said. "That does not include expected fertilizer savings."
Buying the strip-till equipment was not a snap decision for the Seltz brothers. Doug Seltz said he spent seven years studying the advances in strip-till equipment and technology. He's consulted with Iowa State Extension, the Iowa Learning Farm and the Webster County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD).
"The time is right," Doug Seltz said. "Strip-till technology, guidance systems and variable rate applicators are finally good enough to make the investment. I now look forward to enjoying the benefits of strip-till and the cost savings."
Schulte says strip-till combines the best aspects of conventional tillage with the benefits of no-till. In the fall, the strip-tiller creates strips of exposed soil, broken up by a coulter and shank, and moves surface residue between the strips. In the spring, the strip of exposed soil warms and dries faster than the rest of the field. The added fertilizer is applied only to the exposed row, keeping weeds at bay.
"Strip-till can be an excellent tool for keeping soil in place," said Schulte. "Trash will likely stay in the field under a heavy rainfall because the strip is placed next to last season's corn plant. The root ball is kept intact, holds the soil and keeps the residue from floating off into a ditch. We see strip-tillers getting almost the same soil holding benefit as do no-till farmers."
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