Capturing Sunlight, Building Carbon with Strip Cropping and Interseeding

A continual search for a more profitable bottom line led this Wisconsin strip-tiller to embrace no-till, interseeded covers and alternative row spacing.

Pictured Above: SOLAR CORRIDOR. Strips of soybeans alternate with strips of corn on Marty Weiss’ farm in Beaver Dam, Wis. “My goal with strip-cropping is to capture sunlight, which leads to more carbon capture and soil organic matter,” says Weiss

A LONG-TIME strip-tiller, Marty Weiss has been conservation-minded for years. But he’s taken inspiration from the recent widespread focus on soil health and in the past few years tackled several new practices, including no-till, strip cropping, interseeding cover crops in both 30-inch and 60-inch corn, planting green and even seeding covers for regenerative grazing. 

Weiss has farmed 250 acres in Beaver Dam, Wis., since 1987 and began reducing tillage shortly thereafter. 

Co-chair of Wisconsin’s Dodge County Farmers for Healthy Soils & Healthy Waters, Weiss’ land hasn’t seen a plow since the early- to mid-1990s. He’s been strip-tilling with zone tillage on the planter, then a strip-till bar since about 2004 and this year (2020) went 100% no-till.

Harvesting Sunlight

Traditionally, strip cropping has been used in areas with rolling ground to combat soil erosion. In those situations, farmers usually alternate cash crops with cover crops, such as closely-sown small grains or forages. 

Weiss took a slightly different approach by alternating corn and soybeans in strips of 8 30-inch rows apiece, not to control erosion but to capture sunlight and sequester carbon in search of better soil health and reduced inputs. 

“Every 1% of organic matter contains 1,000 pounds of nitrogen (N), of which approximately 20 pounds are plant-available, 100 pounds…

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Julia gerlach web

Julia Gerlach

Julia Gerlach is the former Executive Editor of No-Till Farmer. She has a lengthy background in publishing and a longtime interest in gardening and mycology. She graduated with a B.A. in music and philosophy from Alverno College in Milwaukee, Wis.

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