Farmers can find several reasons to till soil, Dietrick said. “They can till to cover up last year’s errors. They can till to increase water infiltration or to improve water storage capacity. They also may till to reduce soil bulk density and to roughen up soil to reduce erosion.” Controlling resistant weeds, smoothing soil for ease of planting, and preparing an adequate plant environment are other reasons for tillage.

But tillage also may bring compaction and “roots that run vertical instead of horizontal,” Dietrick said. “Residue management is a key. That’s why I moved to strip till. That also helps me with time management at planting.

He maintains as much crop residue on the soil as possible to hold moisture and improve soil quality. “I like to have two crops of residue on the soil at all times,” he said. “The last two years, I have grown nothing for residue.”

He’s added weights to his planter to put more down pressure on the unit to cut through residue. “Taller stubble can be difficult.”

Strip till creates a slight berm. He runs a mold knife about 8 inches deep and puts in about 80 pounds of nitrogen.

“I want to apply nitrogen on the conservative side,” he said. “Economics is a factor.”

He also recommends farmers participate in a Master Marketer program offered by the Texas AgriLife Cooperative Extension Service. One advantage, he said, is that growers learn to be more aware of production costs and efficiency.

“We need to be better marketers. Marketing a crop is as important as growing a crop. Everything we do, we figure out through economics.”