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There's a buzz — some of it positive, some not — coming out of southeastern Minnesota about a new strip-tilling machine. The chatter focuses on Mark Bauer’s Soil Warrior, which he says provides an unprecedented balance between conventional tillage and no-till.
Bauer, who grows 1,600 acres of corn and soybeans near Faribault, Minn., spent 25 years looking for the balance that would produce profitable yields while preserving his fields. He spent most of that time, he says, “trying to do conventional tillage with chisel plows and v-rippers on rough, rolling ground with lots of rocks. But the erosion wasn’t acceptable. It was also labor intensive and fuel intensive.”
Bauer, who speaks with the heart of a no-tiller, is a pilot who flies for a hobby. Looking down from the sky, the erosion appalled him. “What you see on the ground is magnified from above,” he says. “I’m not a tree-hugger, but I feel responsible for what we’re doing to the environment.”
He adds, “I wasn’t satisfied with the results we were getting from conventional tillage, so we tried to make no-till our practice. But every time we’d face a weather obstacle in the spring, we’d take a yield hit.”
Bauer and his wife, Sue, also maintained livestock on the farm, which pushed them to grow corn on corn and further complicated their tillage practices. “I couldn’t get no-till to be successful in corn on corn. The yield lag was substantial. We’d have a year that was okay…