Conventional wisdom at the coffee shop says John Obery’s twin-row, strip-tilled continuous corn won’t work and conventional tillage is the way to farm. But the Metamora, Ill., strip-tiller, who began farming in 1973, sets his own course.
“Everybody’s got to make a judgment call about how they want to farm,” Obery says. “What we want to do is build the soil and raise bigger crop yields and not worry about a big thunderstorm washing the farm away.
“We’ve got a little bit of rolling ground. Most of it is prime dirt.”
Obery farms with his brother, Mark, and his cousin, Joel, in Obery Farms Partnership, which grows 2,920 acres of continuous corn.
For the conventional-tillage diehards at the coffee shop, twin-row strip-tilled corn falls beyond their comfort zone, he says.
“It’s all about capturing as much sunlight and nutrients as you can and giving each corn plant enough room to grow,” Obery says. “Twin rows help me achieve that better than 20-inch rows, where every inch narrower takes more management.”
Obery is used to leaving his comfort zone to increase yields, protect the soil from erosion and build organic matter. He worked through several tillage systems from 1973 to 2004, when he first tried strip-tilled corn on corn.
Obery believes this demanding system will one day reward him with corn crops averaging 300 bushels per acre. To be sure, Obery Farms has grown high-yielding corn crops.
“Our highest yield in the National Corn Growers Association’s yield contest was 269 bushels…