Strip tillage is paying big dividends at the Stiles Farm Foundation in Thrall, Texas, this year, according to experts.

During times of high diesel, fertilizer and lack of rainfall, strip-tillage practices can be beneficial to producers.

“We’ve been using strip tillage primarily as a way to conserve moisture and conserve residue this year. I think it’s paying off,” said Archie Abrameit, Stiles Farm manager and Texas AgriLife Extension Service specialist. “In a wet year, it’s not as obvious, but some of the data we’ve collected over the past five years show advantages to strip till.”

The advantages of strip till, a conservation method that usually involves tilling the soil in narrow strips for seed plantings, are reduced trips with equipment and savings on fuel, he said.

More than 200 Blacklands producers gathered at the 45th Stiles Farm Field Day to learn more about efficient use of fertilizer and herbicides, plus got a first-hand look at some of the latest equipment.

Dr. Paul Baumann, AgriLife Extension weed specialist, emphasized the importance of tackling weed problems during early crop growth.

“We’re emphasizing to producers to get them (herbicides) out on time to be fully effective,” he said. “We can’t have weeds coming up and competing with a crop.”

During times of high input costs, Baumann said, getting a handle on weeds early during a crop cycle is critical.

Abrameit said that though these are times of historically high commodity prices, input costs are eroding profit margins.

“The costs of fuel and fertilizer have made dramatic increases,” Abrameit said. “Seed and chemicals have had modest increases.”

Crop conditions at the Stiles Farm are favorable, but rainfall is needed, he said.

“The outlook, it’s variable,” Abrameit said. “It appears early-planted corn is going to be average or below average. Later-planted corn is near disaster. Grain sorghum is looking more promising, being more of a tropical dry-weather crop and not as dependent on nitrogen or rainfall. The cotton (crop) needs rain badly. Some is near full bloom but is taking a hit due to dry weather.”

b-fannin@tamu.edu