The last few years have demanded that many farmers innovate to improve the bottom line. Whether it’s more aggressive technology adoption, more efficient nutrient applications or machinery modifications, farmers are adapting to push production potential on every acre.
All three of these practices are often cornerstones of strip-till farming operations. Having enjoyed the opportunity to cover the industry for No-Till Farmer and Strip-Till Farmer, Farm Equipment’s sister publications, I’ve heard many times about someone being the local ambassador for strip-till, promoting the benefits and converting neighbors.
These are encouraging stories not only to hear, but to share because they reinforce the commitment strip-tillers make, along with the challenges they face and rewards they earn.
About a decade ago, our sister publication, No-Till Farmer, reported on the estimated total of strip-till acres in the U.S. based on survey data and state research conducted by local agronomists. The 2007 study revealed about 3.6 million acres of corn were actively strip-tilled that year, or roughly 19% of the nation’s no-till corn acreage at the time. Not surprising, and consistent with our more recent strip-till benchmark study data, the highest concentration of strip-till acres (1.7 million) were in the Corn Belt.
Interestingly, a survey of 2008 National No-Tillage Conference attendees revealed that 36% expected strip-till acres to increase 1-10% by 2010, with another 16% forecasting growth of 11-20% and another 9% predicting growth of more than 20%.
It’s safe to say, strip-till acres have grown since those decade-old projections, but it’s difficult to predict the anticipated increase in strip-tilled acres since neither the government nor anyone else collects data indicating how many acres are farmed with this system today.
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However, talking recently with strip-till experts, I’ve asked them to try and quantify current acreage in a strip-till system and also offer a forecast for what we can expect in the future. The best estimate I’ve heard, based on field research and personal experience of those I’ve chatted with, is 8 million acres strip-tilled in 2017 and a projection of 11.7 million by 2030.
Dealers agree that strip-tillage has tremendous potential for increased use and can be ambassadors of the practice. Gary Fennig of Fennig Equipment, a shortline-only dealer in Coldwater, Ohio, notes that if farmers who start strip-tilling stick with it for 3-4 years, they’ll stick with it for a long time.
“They will definitely see the benefit and be the one outshining their neighbor who is out there making 3 or 4 passes to get the crop planted while they are done in 2 passes,” he says.
Making the commitment is often a barrier into the practice, but we’re looking to recognize those individuals who have excelled in taking the risk, thinking outside of the box and promoting the advantages. To celebrate those successes, Strip-Till Farmer is seeking nominations from farmers, equipment and input dealers, manufacturers and other agribusiness professionals to honor outstanding leaders of the conservation-tillage industry.
The first-ever Strip-Till Innovator Awards are open to individual growers in the U.S. and Canada who have made a significant contribution to the advancement of strip-till farming, regardless of the crop grown or brand of equipment, seed or crop protection products used.