Evaluating strip tillage to increase soil quality and improve profitability

Harmon Wilts

This research project will evaluate strip tillage and its ability to improve soil health, while also maintaining crop production yields and farm profitability. We will utilize three fields of roughly 75 acres each. In each field, there will be 25 acres dedicated to the ETS Soil Warrior strip tillage machine, 25 acres designated for the Krause Gladiator strip tillage machine, and 25 acres designated for the Krause Dominator conventional ripper.

The data for the analysis of this research project will come from Climate Field View software, Spatial Data software, and yearly Nutrient Analysis tests. In addition to these sources of analysis, physical measurements will be analyzed including plant emergence, plant height, and the level of soil compaction. Additionally, the economic return per acre will be evaluated as well.

The purpose of this research project is to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of strip tillage on a field-scale level, and eliminate uncertainty relating to strip tillage. This project will incorporate many aspects of tillage that farmers consider. The project will demonstrate if strip tillage is feasible. It will showcase the similarities and differences between two different strip till machines and compare them to a conventional tillage machine. It will test the various methods and timing of nitrogen application, and it will give and approximate cost to converting from conventional tillage to strip tillage on a farm. Each of these project aspects will answer key questions for farmers that are considering making the switch to strip tillage.

While plot data and research studies have been conducted and distributed regarding some of these aspects, there is a large lack of data for strip tillage in Minnesota. Additionally, most data comes from small plot trials. This project will be extremely relevant to farmers due its field-scale trial size. The results of this study will showcase the feasibility of strip tillage on a full farm level.
Eliminating uncertainty about strip till will likely result in a significant increase in farms that convert from conventional tillage to strip tillage.

Strip tillage is an important aspect of agriculture to study because of its direct environmental benefits to reducing soil erosion. Agriculture is at its most productive point in history. While crop yields are impressively high and growing, the soil on farmland is expected to provide more nutrients than it ever has been expected to provide. Due to such high outputs, it’s important for farmers to find ways to ensure the environmental sustainability of their farms and farmland. This study will analyze if strip tillage is an effective way for farms to capture yields that can compete with conventional practices, in a way that is preserving the soil for years to come.