The Midwest Strip Tillage Expo

George Cummins, Extension Field Agronomist, Northeast Area


Minimum and no-till farming systems are widely recognized for their erosion control/ soil conservation benefits. These systems also reduce fuel and labor (less field trip) requirements. The demand for corn has greatly increased the number of continuous corn acres. Research and farmer experience indicates a significant yield/ profit reduction from high-residue systems, particularly on the cool, wet soils common in North Iowa. In recent years, strip tillage has been promoted as a system that captures the conservation advantages from retaining residue cover and the production advantages of tillage. Farmer entrepreneurs and equipment providers have developed/ are refining strip tillage systems that work. Tillage trials have been established to compare various tillage systems including strip tillage.

Extension's Response

Iowa hosted the Midwest Strip Tillage Expo held July 31st at Hawkeye Community College near Waterloo. The program was developed and implemented by Faculty and Extension Staff from the University of Wisconsin, the University of Minnesota, Iowa State University and Hawkeye Community College. The program featured educational presentations on: Fertility Management for Strip Tillage by Dick Wolkowski, UW; Strip Tillage Options for Continuous Corn, Mahdi Al Kaisi, ISU; Auto Steer Technology, Tim Stombaugh, U of Kentucky; and Selecting Strip Tillage Equipment for your farm, Mark Hanna, ISU. These presentations as well as a means to interact electronically with presenters and panel members are posted at Field demonstrations were conducted and static displays were set up from 14 different manufacturers allowing Expo attendees to see the equipment in action and to speak individually with specific manufacturers. The ISU Learning Farms Project Rainfall Simulator and the ISU 150th Anniversary Display were included in the static display area. A homemade strip till machine, built by Grundy County farmer, Fred Abels, with an ISU grant and assistance from ISU Ag Engineer Mark Hanna, was included in the field demonstrations.  A farmer panel included brief presentations and a question and answer period with experienced strip tillers from Wisconsin (1), Minnesota (1) and Iowa (2).  

ISU Extension Field Staff were very visible helping with registration; as tour guides, information providers and as the panel moderator; and with general program coordination and implementation. Local NRCS staff also assisted with registration.


Total attendance was estimated at 575 – 600 with 8 states represented. A registration questionnaire was completed by 358 farmers who indicated they farmed 1,254,187 acres (1593 acres average/ farmer) and by 113 “Others” (professional agronomists, crop consultants, sales reps, educators, students, etc) who influence the decisions made on an additional 570,301 acres.

As a beginning baseline, the 358 farmer respondents indicated they used the following tillage practices in various rotations. The numbers shown are % of total for that rotation.

Tillage system                                                   Rotation          

                                                CC                   C/Sbn              Sbn/C         Wheat
No-Till                                     16                       43                    63                 81

Chisel                                       27                         7                      5                   5

Deep Rip                                  22                        10                     5                   7

Strip till                         35                         40                   27                  7

While this audience is probably not representative of all farmers, the survey indicates that a majority of respondents (51%, 83%, and 90%) are using no-till or strip till in continuous corn, corn following soybeans, and soybeans following corn respectively. The survey also indicates that a number of respondents (7% and 10% respectively) are chiseling or deep ripping soybean ground ahead of corn, presumably in the fall leaving little residue cover to protect the soil from wind and water erosion. A follow-up survey should be done to document increased awareness and adoption of crop production practices which are economically and environmentally sound.    

Iowa Extension Staff were very visible and interacted with the crowd throughout the day. Several out-of state attendees commented, “How nice it is to see Extension staff involved in such an event”, “How fortunate Iowa has been to be able to maintain an Extension Ag presence in the field” and “We don’t see much of Ag Extension in the field in our state.”

The Expo exemplifies the excellent working relationship that exists between the three sponsoring universities. The Expo exemplifies the excellent working relationship that exists between ISU and the ag staff and students at Hawkeye Community College; the state agencies with common objectives; and the agri-businesses and dealerships which service our area.

Revenue generated by Certified Crop Advisor CEU fees was split equally between the Post-secondary Ag Student organization at HCC and ISU Extension as cost recovery.


105 Conservation Tillage Systems and
161 Adoption and Implementation of Conservation Practices

Page last updated: January 10, 2008
Page maintained by Linda Schultz,