Crops Like Precisely Placed Fertilizer

Slayton, Minn., strip-tiller Doug Pierson likes the benefits his crops receive by fertilizer precisely and saving money on fuel.

“We can be more efficient with our fertilizer because we’re placing it right under where the plant is going to be growing the following spring,” Pierson says. Strip-till is the only tillage tool he uses in the fall, he says.

“We see that our fuel usage is cut down considerably,” Pierson says. “I think a lot of studies have been talking about a 40% reduction overall in fuel usage.” Strip-tilling and other conservation tillage practices allow farmers like Pierson to sequester carbon, which one day produce money from carbon payments, Gary Wyatt, University of Minnesota Extension educator, Mankato, says.

“Live plants sequester carbon in the soil through photosynthesis and through the roots and so forth and certainly it benefits  our landscape and our atmosphere, reducing greenhouse gases.”

Pierson likes the environmental benefits of strip-tilling, in addition to its economic benefits.

“You should always leave the soils better than you found them,” he says. “I think strip-tilling is an avenue where I can feel real good about my career here farming if we can leave things better than we found them.”

Sold On Strip-Till

Joel and Linda Zweifel began strip-tilling continuous corn about 10 years ago and are making this challenging practice work just fine.

“Strip-till improves the organic matter and helps absorb more water,” Joel Zweifel says. “With a heavy rain, the more we can keep the soil attached to the roots, the land standing water we see.”

Strip-tilling has increased their corn yields, improved water infiltration in the soil and reduced soil erosion, the Zweifels says. They began strip-tilling after Joel talked with other farmers in the state who were succeeding with strip-till.

The Zweifels and two neighbors invested in strip-till equipment that they share and the Zweifels no longer own a field cultivator.

These days, it’s  Zweifels are the ones talking to other farmers who are interested in strip-till.
“I’ve had calls from people who want to come out and see the field and a lot of people drive by our fields to look,” Linda says. “We need to talk to other producers who are successful,” Joel says. “They can show us how it worked for them.”

Strip-Till Convert
When a landlord required he use conservation practices,  Masonville, Iowa, crop and livestock farmer Tom Vaske researched his conservation options. Vaske decied that strip-tilling was the best one and modified an old planter into a strip-till rig.

“I love adopting conservation practices,” Vaske says. “It’s fun, interesting and engaging. They cost less money and require less labor. Now technology is catching up so there aren’t any good reasons not to do it.”

Vaske returned to the family farm after graduating from college in 2001 and began farming on his own in 2006. He grows 960 acres of corn and soybeans, finishes hogs and has a cow-calf operation with his father.