Winter has not given up it’s grip and for many fields across the entire Corn Belt – soils are frozen. Today a bit of basic soil science to illuminate you why as we live with our tillage practices, be they Direct Seeding (called No-Till), Strip Till, ridge till, Chisel, Disking, moldboard plowing, and roto-till. From the least amount of soil disturbance to the absolute maximum. Oh there ain’t anybody roto-tilling! Better think again.
So why did tillage start in the first place? Well those men and women that took a stick, shoulder scalp bone from a cow or buffalo to till soils didn’t stick around long enough to give us any clues as to why. One answer was provided – competition. Another the seeds planting or dropped on the ground may germinate but live for a short time because run out of moisture to perpetuate growth. Another, birds came along and stole the seeds away – again competition. As men moved from their homelands of the middle east/Mediterranean, far east, all across Europe and into the New World – The Americas, farming for cereals, beans was taken along and propagated.
Digging to give you the best information regarding soils as I know how.
Here we sit in our easy chairs or at a desk or table reading with snow, ice, wind outside to solidify our consciousness that staying inside is the best course. I bring up this subject to help in your understanding that strip tillage has loads of good aspects except to the purist of Direct Seeding, that’s fine. Strip till emerged from the concept we can do minimal amount of in-the-ground vertical tillage, not rolling the soil over in a 8-10 inch band to maximize tillage to disrupt human caused and natural causes of compaction. Then to stir that soil only within a modified U fashion of the soil so the followup row crop planter can place seed, evenly, smoothly and with little to no crop aftermath getting in the way of the seed-to-soil contact just made. The soil area warms up nicely, porosity can improve to allow water soak downward and into the soil profile, oxygen/carbon dioxide exchange happens, soil density has been lessened which in so many, many cases is important and the newly planted crop starts a life cycle which farmers live for. Allowing for O2 and CO2 exchange as well as some other gasses is vital for the young crop.
Let me put it this way maybe even more clearly, what you do to give a crop its best start for the first 45 days of a crops life cycle is so important it is a make-or-breaking deal. Some say a crop will catch-up to its neighbors if it is a tad slow out of the ground, physiologically folks I do not believe that to be true for an second. So many of the physiological characteristics are set in the first 45 days of growth. If you wait 5 years before you feed a infant to 5 year old meat based protein and other foods of high nutritional value and leave him/her in a basement room, look what can happen. Modern medicine has around the world we live on shown us that is detrimental to a child. So why would we want to do this, yes mistreatment to a starting corn, soybean, sunflower, cotton, or peanut crop? Maybe I am a mite melodramatic here. I am tho a proponent of smart soil management, still being a steward of the soil and water resources (34 years in SCS/NRCS brought that to my attention) so we minimize losses due to erosion, managing residues, tilling less of the surface, giving the soil resource a chance to remain healthy with adjunct practices such as adding of certain amendments and/or biostimulants when needed, growing companion crops when and where possible, using cover crops with a common sense approach, and having a real rotation of crops.
In 2020 may all of you consider the ramifications of the strip tillage concept, that there are doggone few if any better tips to start your 2020 season off on the better path. Talk to a 1tRIPr owner in your neck of the woods. See what he or she says that can get your mind to thinking. Check with an Orthman Territorial Rep, their contact information is on this website, see what he has to say also. Call me, write me, text, send smoke signals if you like – Strip Till can be for you and an opportunity to improve your husbandry of the soil.