Today‘s agricultural community is embracing many new technologies. Innovative researchers have developed new ways to increase yields ranging from the global positioning of satellites to strip till. Strip till is a process of tilling small strips of soil while leaving the strip in between each row untilled to remain rich in organic matter. The benefits of strip till versus conventional till make it a practical way of increasing farm efficiency.
Strip till first began in as a way for large farms to cover more acreage more efficiently in order to save time fuel and labor. The process begins a full growing season in advance with another crop. Once this crop is harvested, the stalks and other debris are mowed to the ground leaving the ground covered in organic matter; this crop is termed the cover crop. Once all equipment preparations are made the next growing season is started. A pass is made through the field with a minimum tillage implement. This implement plows up twelve-inch wide strips and then conditions them. Then the crop is planted and herbicide is applied. Throughout the growing season the crop is sprayed using a specialized hood sprayer, which protects the crop from the herbicide, to control weeds. This is a vast difference in conventional methods, which utilizes several passes to plow and condition the soil while also using herbicides.
Environmentalists would have one believe that herbicide applications are detrimental to our ecosystems. However, with proper handling, our ecosystems are better protected from hazardous runoff when strip till practices are utilized. Conventional methods spray herbicide directly onto the ground where they can be washed away by rain or irrigation. Strip till methods spray herbicides onto the organic matter left behind from the cover crop where it can be absorbed into the plant. The method of spraying directly onto the desired area is called banding. The environmental concerns make strip till a more sound way of controlling unwanted organisms. Erosion and soil compaction are other environmental concerns which strip till alleviates. Wind erosion is made less possible because the ground is left with debris and root masses which holds water and do not allow the water to wash away soil particles. Soil compaction is also less of a problem because less passes with large tractors are needed to produce a crop.
The greatest benefit to the farmer is cost reduction. Less fuel and less labor being required per acre generate more profit. In an era when commodity prices are at an all time low, generating a profit is of utmost importance. Through less equipment cost and maintenance, strip till allows farmer‘s to produce a crop with less capital investments.
The popularity of strip till practices grows each year as farmers find ways of incorporating it into their specific operation‘s needs. Conventional till has been used for many centuries but this practice only “stirs up a dust” in that weed seed are plowed a way into a dormant stage only to be plowed up to germinate. Utilization of new agricultural technologies, such as strip till, allows producers to go into the 21st century with tools that will enable them to provide agricultural products to sustain the world.