Written by Theresa Rose on April 17, 2015

DES MOINES – Farmers in Iowa continue to expand usage of no-till or strip-till to limit runoff, improve water quality and reduce production costs. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey today shared a list of recommendations and resources that are valuable for experienced no-/strip-tillers and those new to the practice.

“No-till and strip-till are great ways to preserve our valuable soil resources and help protect water quality, but managing that residue during spring planting can create challenges.” Northey said, “Fortunately there’s a wealth of resources available from equipment manufacturers, university research and extension, and other farmers that are committed to advancing conservation farming that improves water quality while maintaining crop production.”

Many of the resources below are beneficial regardless of tillage system, but can be even more critical in high residue operations.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, in conjunction with Iowa Learning Farms and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, have put together information to help farmers. The fact-sheet has information on planter settings, fertilizer considerations, weed control and other considerations to help farmers successfully use no-till and strip-till in their operation. The information can be found at

Iowa Learning Farms also has a YouTube video on planter settings for no-till operations at Additional videos on other aspects of planter settings are available through their YouTube channel, which can be found at

Finally, work with the manufacturer of your planter or strip-till bar as they would also have addition information that would help with proper calibration and settings for efficient use of your specific planter and planter attachments.

“With tight margins, variable spring weather, and a late harvest in 2014 impacting usual field work, no-till or strip-till may be an option for farmers interested in reducing costs, at the same time reducing surface runoff, erosion, and improving soil health. Adding cover crops in the fall adds an additional layer of protection from what Mother Nature dishes out, particularly reducing nitrogen losses,” Northey said.


No-till, as the name suggest is when no tillage is done to the soil following harvest. Strip-till is when a narrow, residue-free strip of soil about six inches wide is tilled to prepare the seedbed for planting. The soil surface between tilled strips is undisturbed as in no-till.

There has been widespread adoption of no-till and conservation tillage, which includes strip-till, in recent years. According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture by the USDA National Agriculture Statistics Service, no-till was used on nearly 7 million acres in Iowa and conservation tillage was used on 8.76 million acres.

Visit to learn more about voluntary, science-based practices that can be implemented on our farms and in our cities to improve water quality. Iowans can also follow @CleanWaterIowa on twitter or “like” the page on Facebook to receive updates and other information about the ongoing Iowa water quality initiative