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'You can’t strip-till sugarbeets,’ is something Snover, Mich., farmer Ryan Shaw had grown accustomed to hearing. But, since introducing strip-till on his 1,400-acre corn, soybean and sugarbeet operation in 2014, a glance at his fields provides evidence to the contrary.
“Everyone’s farm and soil conditions are different, but for us, strip-tilling has definitely become the more efficient way to grow sugarbeets,” Shaw says. “I’ve talked to a few other farmers with similar results. Sugarbeets pay a lot of mortgages around here and prices have been really low for the past 3 years, so a lot of farmers still feel that experimenting with it is still just too risky.”
Getting his roughly 300 acres of sugarbeets to grow in a strip-till system is one thing, but Shaw has been able to do so profitably. The strip-till payback has come in the form of cost savings rather than yield, and Shaw notes that although tonnage per acre and sugar content have remained roughly the same, he’s reduced the number of trips across the field and is using less fertilizer.
Before switching to strip-till, a chisel plow trip and 2-3 cultivating passes were needed in the fall to prep the seedbed. He now does 1 pass in the fall with his 12-row Soil Warrior, banding variable-rated potash and Micro-Essentials SZ (MESZ). In the spring, he does a shallow “refreshing pass,” shortly before planting.
“By putting our fertilizer right where we need it, we’ve been able to reduce rates,” he says. “We still put…