Field day to Explore Benefits of Combining Strip-till and Cover Crops

ISU Extension and Outreach is partnering with Practical Farmers of Iowa and Iowa Learning Farms to provide June 8 field day near Holland, Iowa.

May 18, 2017, 9:13 am | Elizabeth Ripley, Tamsyn Jones

HOLLAND, Iowa — Cover crops and strip-tillage are two practices farmers can use to minimize erosion, boost soil health and reduce nutrients from entering waterways – and combining the two can augment their benefits.

Fred Abels has been strip-tilling for more than 10 years, using homemade equipment, and incorporating cover crops into his row crop and livestock farm near Holland.

He will share his experience at a field day he is hosting Thursday, June 8, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., in Holland. The event – “Strip-Till and Cover Crop Field Day” – is being held in partnership with Practical Farmers of Iowa, Iowa Learning Farms and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, and will start with dinner, provided by PT Grillers in Morrison, in the shelter at the Holland City Park (located near the intersection of 4th Avenue N and Main Street).

The field day is free and open to all, but RSVPs are requested for the meal. Please contact Liz Juchems at (515) 294-5429 or

After dinner and discussion, guests will walk to the field site just north of the park. Abels will share how he has adapted his operation to use strip-till and cover crops together while maintaining yields, and guests will get to see strip-tillage equipment. Other speakers will include Mark Hanna, agricultural engineer with ISU Extension and Outreach, and Sarah Carlson, Midwest cover crops director with Practical Farmers of Iowa.

Abels says he wants to show attendees how it’s possible to start using strip-tillage on a low budget. “You don’t need to buy a new or used strip-tillage implement to get into strip-till,” he said. “I’ve been using a homemade strip-tillage implement for over 10 years and got it where it does a nice job of preparing a clean, black strip of soil to plant into – and I planted into 200 bushel-an-acre corn residue with a winter rye cover crop.”

Abels and his wife, Vicki, farm about 400 acres at K & A Acres. Fred acquired the farm from his uncle in the late-1970s after working for other farmers for a few years. In addition to corn and soybeans, he has a cow-calf herd that he rotationally grazes. He uses several conservation practices to protect his soil, local waterways and wildlife, including no-till, strip-till, cover crops, the Conservation Reserve Program and grass waterways, among others.

Directions to field day
The field day will start at the Holland City Park, near the intersection of 4th Avenue N and Main Street, near the ball diamond. After dinner and discussion, the group will walk to the field, which is just 1.5 blocks east of the park.

Practical Farmers’ 2017 field days are supported by several sustaining and major sponsors, including: Ag Ventures Alliance; Albert Lea Seed; Center for Rural Affairs; Fertrell; Gandy Cover Crop Seeders; Grain Millers, Inc.; Iowa Beef Center; Iowa Environmental Council; Iowa State University Department of Agronomy; Iowa Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE); ISU Extension and Outreach; La Crosse Forage and Turf Seed; Lemken; Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture; MOSA Organic Certification; Natural Resources Defense Council; Organic Valley / Organic Prairie; Riverside Feeds, LLC; The Scoular Company; Trees Forever; Unilever; University of Iowa College of Public Health (I-CASH); Upper Iowa Audubon Society; USDA: Natural Resources Conservation Service; Wallace Chair for Sustainable Agriculture; and Welter Seed & Honey Co.

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