For more than 20 years, a less-is-more approach has defined the strip-till operation of Iowa farmer Kyle Schminke. He got his start working with Shellsburg, Iowa, farmer Homer Showman and today strip-tills about 1,000 acres of corn and no-tills 1,000 acres of soybeans.
Farmers have increasingly shifted away from conventional tillage to some form of reduced tillage. In part, this reflects efforts to control labor, fuel, and maintenance costs as well as the recognition that tillage can contribute to a decrease in overall soil health.
Growers need to understand that strip-till equipment is unique. It may function flawlessly in mellow soils that break and crumble in textbook fashion. In other conditions, the strip-till unit may need to function as a primary tillage tool operating in hard, compacted soils that are wet, rock and stone infested, and are nearly impossible to break into manageable pieces.
Before heading into the fields each season, strip-tillers should make sure their rigs are in working order — inspecting everything from the fertilizer hoses to the row units — because worn parts can lead to in-field breakdowns.
One of the ways growing numbers of farmers around the world are helping ensure the sustainability of their land for future generations is through conservation tillage practices such as no-till and strip-till.
More no-tillers are finding fertilizing and tilling a 6- to 8-inch narrow band of soil in the fall and planting into this strip the following spring definitely boosts corn yields. They find fall strip-tilling gives a warmer, mellower soil when no-tilling corn, plus it allows them to apply most of their phosphorus and potassium along with nitrogen in the fall.