Strip tillage gains traction in Ontario

Ontario farmers have been strip tilling for almost two decades, but the soil conservation tillage method appears to be gathering momentum across the province.

Ian McDonald, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs crop innovation specialist, says part of the attraction of strip till is its ability to capture the benefits of both conventional and no-till. By tilling only strips of soil for the crop to be planted into, growers till only about one-third of the soil surface while leaving two-thirds of the soil undisturbed.

McDonald helped organize the strip till demonstration at Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show atWoodstock, Ont., as farmers flocked to the daily demo to watch strip till machines in action.

In this video, McDonald explains how strip tillage, which is used primarily for corn in the province, allows for fertilizer to be banded or blended within the strip. It can also reduce the number of tillage passes, lower fuel costs and help soil warm more quickly in the spring. There’s also less erosion, adequate crop residue cover and better soil heath.

From a cost perspective, McDonald says the big difference is the number of tractors and pieces of equipment required to get the crop in the ground. By combining a tillage pass with fertilizer incorporation, farmers can reduce field passes, have better placement of fertilizer, and get a greater crop response to these nutrients.

Soil compaction is also reduced. “You’re taking weight off the planter by moving fertilizer onto the strip tiller. That speeds up and lightens the process,” adds McDonald. (Story continues after video.)

When it comes to yield, strip till compares favourably to conventional and no-till systems based on Canadian and U.S. research, he notes. McDonald says seasonal weather conditions often play a role in determining tillage winners and losers, but in general farmers typically see better strip till performance as they incorporate the full system, including cover crops. “As a function of that, your costs are lower and your net return is better.”

In the interview, McDonald discusses the benefits of creating strips in the fall versus the spring; and potential for further strip till growth in Ontario in the decade ahead.

Click here for more coverage of Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show.

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