While strip-tillers battled wet fields last fall, the practice continues to grow in the Corn Belt and throughout the U.S., according to ag equipment manufacturers exhibiting at the recent Farm Progress Show.

“Strip-tillers want to be certain that they can make their strips in the fall,” says Roger Lewis, sales manager for Environmental Tillage Systems. Lewis recommends that growers find another individual to strip-till while harvest is occurring.

Wayne Buck, Hiniker’s sales manager, says interest in strip-till quieted down after the wet, messy harvest in 2009.

“Now, I’m seeing interest come back. Farmers are shopping,” Buck says. “We see more interest in North Dakota and northern Minnesota and a lot of interest in sugarbeet country in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Utah. We also see a lot of interest in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and some of Michigan.”

Joe Bassett, director of operations for Dawn Equipment, says wet weather last fall left strip-tillers frustrated. Bassett notes that a number of other manufacturers began marketing coulters for strip-till row units for spring strip-till.

“You are seeing a lot of ‘me-too’ products,” says Bassett, whose company has marketed the Pluribus coulter system for years. “There are a wide variety of conditions that you can do something productive using a coulter system,” he says.

Justin Troudt, vice president of sales and marketing for Orthman Mfg. Co., says the company’s strip-till business continues to grow.

“For instance, our largest dealer in Nebraska, as far as selling Orthman strip-till equipment, will have one of their top-selling years in 2010,” Troudt says. “In the Corn Belt, the trend continues with farmers moving from broad, full-width tillage to conservation tillage.”

Some education still needs to be done to answer questions about how strip-till can be a successful fertilizer application, whether strip-tillers should apply dry or liquid and what rates to use, he says.

“We are seeing a lot of different crops strip-tilled beyond corn and soybeans and used beyond the Corn Belt,” Troudt says.

Farmers are using strip-till for sugarbeets, potatoes, dry edible beans, cotton and tomatoes, and strip-till is expanding to the western U.S. But in the Corn Belt, farmers have heard about strip-till for some years, Troudt says.

“This is a 12-year-old practice,” he says. “There’s no other tillage practice that has taken this long for farmers to evaluate. We know guys who have been evaluating strip-till for 3 or 4 years.”

Andy Thompson, a Yetter Mfg. Co. sales manager, says sales of its strip-till and fertilizer units slowed to a halt in late summer, but he says there are signs of optimism.

“I don’t think people are writing off strip-till,” Thompson says. “Everybody is in a holding pattern right now. Some of our dealers have said they’ve gotten calls about strip-till and they think sales are going to break loose.”

Nick Jensen, chief marketing officer for Thurston Mfg., which makes Blu-Jet strip-till rigs, says its overall strip-till business continues to grow.

“Interest among corn growers on 30-inch rows remains strong and interest from farmers in narrow-row corn and sugarbeets continues to grow as well,” Jensen says.

“We have interest on 30-inch-row and wider configurations coming from almost every state where corn is grown. The strongest would be in more northern areas where no-tillers are having trouble with the soil warming up and drying down in the spring.

“In narrow-row corn, we have good interest predominately in Minnesota and Iowa. Interest from sugarbeet growers is coming from Nebraska, Colorado, Idaho, Minnesota and North Dakota.”

More growers are trying spring strip-till, but overall most still choose to run in the fall when possible, Jensen says.

“Our row units allow operators their choice of doing either fall or spring strip-till, or both, depending on weather conditions,” he adds.

Strip-till is not something that will ever interest every farmer because it requires too much change, says Gary Wallander, Brillion’s senior product specialist. And there are many variations of strip-till rigs.

“You could sell 10 strip-till machines and not have two set up the same way,” Wallander says. “You have to custom-make almost every one.”

Financial incentives from the federal government — particularly in USDA’s priority watersheds — make it easier for farmers to try strip-till, says Dave Nelson, president and co-owner of Brokaw Supply Co.  

Nitrogen deficiency was a problem in many corn fields in Iowa during the 2010 growing season because nitrogen applied in the fall of 2009 leached out, Nelson says. Being able to sidedress with a strip-till toolbar can help farmers split nitrogen applications, says Nelson, who is a Blu-Jet dealer.

“Feed the crop when it is hungry,” he says.

Dave Wendt, John Deere tillage product manager, says “strip-till is definitely growing. Does it have the limelight that it did 3 years ago? I don’t think it does,” Wendt says.

Regardless of tillage system, many farmers ask Wendt how they can deal with the increased amount of residue from high-yielding crops.

“Higher yields create a problem,” he says. “One thing creates another.”

Jim Isaacsen, Wil-Rich district sales manager for Illinois, eastern Iowa, southeast Minnesota and Wisconsin, says farmers with medium-size operations are adopting strip-till and no-till. Farmers with larger operations continue to do more direct-seeding of soybeans and some tillage in continuous corn.

“Farmers in Wisconsin are trying to get into strip-till,” Isaacsen says, “but it’s harder for them due to rocks. I do like the benefits of strip-till.”