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Conservation Choices: No-Till/Strip-Till

No-Till Strip-Till

No-till/Strip-tillWhat it is

Performing no full-width tillage from the time of harvest or termination of one cash crop to the time of the harvest or termination of the next cash crop in the rotation, regardless of the depth of the tillage operation.

How it helps

  • Crop residue prevents soil erosion, protects water quality, improves soil tilth, and adds organic matter to the soil as it decomposes.
  • When soil is left undisturbed microbial activity increases, helping to build soil structure and improve soil health.
  • No-till helps form root channels and other near-surface voids that increase water infiltration.
  • No-till helps sequester additional carbon in the soil.
  • No-till reduces particulate emissions, which improves air quality.
  • Fewer trips with no-till reduces soil compaction, requires less energy use, and saves money through fewer inputs.
  • No-till increases plant-available moisture.
  • No-till provides food and escape cover for wildlife.

Planning ahead

  • Will your crop produce enough residue?
  • Do you have the needed equipment?
  • Is no-till part of your planned system of conservation measures?

Tech Notes

  • Leave stubble taller than the 10-inch minimum to trap more snow and provide better protection to plants from freezing or dryness.
  • Perform all field operations on the contour to slow overland flow and to improve water infiltration.
  • Leave crop residue undisturbed after harvest to maximize the cover and food source benefits for wildlife and pollinators.
  • Control weeds with herbicide.
  • The annual STIR (Soil Tillage Intensity Rating) value for all soil disturbing activities should not be greater than 15 for no-till.


  • In areas of heavy residue accumulation due to movement from water or wind, spread the residue prior to planting to reduce plant operation interference.

Iowa Practice Standard

Iowa Job Sheet


Farming with Soil Health Practices: No-Till