Strip-tilling fields in southern South Dakota is underway, as of last week, according to Joey Hanson, a custom strip-tiller from Elk Point, S.D.
“We started on April 8, and ran for three days,” he says. “I’ve done 600 acres so far — three times the amount I was able to strip-till in the spring of 2019.”
Although Hanson says he typically doesn’t strip-till a lot of acres in the spring, he’s seen a big uptick in the past couple of years. “Acres are shifting to soybeans, which increases the farmer’s window of getting those acres done,” he says.
Hanson says that a lot of growers who he thought would return to using conventional tillage have not done so, meaning that his custom strip-tilling business has grown by 3-4 customers each year. His business has grown so much that in 2018, he upgraded his strip-tilling rig to a John Deere 9560 tracked tractor pulling a 16-row Kuhn Krause Gladiator.
In Hanson’s experience, once a grower tries strip-tilling, they are hooked.
“Everybody has their reasoning why they like strip-tilling,” he says. “Some guys love strip-tilling because it provides the ideal seedbed to plant on, and yields are the same or better than when conventional tillage is used.”
Strip-tilled crops have really outshone crops from conventionally tilled fields, Hanson comments.
“Multiple guys told me last fall that the strip-till ground they planted yielded their best corn ever,” he says. “It made them believers. One customer even doubled the number of acres they want to strip-till this spring.”
After watching growers in his area turn to prevented planting over the summer of 2019, Hanson says his strip-tilling business came roaring back last fall, despite extremely wet conditions earlier in the year.
“In the spring of 2019, I only ended up strip-tilling 200 acres — 10% of what I had on the books,” Hanson says. “Fall 2019 was unbelievable, a record season. I thought it was going to be a struggle last fall, but interest in strip-till has done nothing but grow each year.”
There was a key reason behind fall 2019 being a record season, according to Hanson.
“Guys understand the benefits to the soil from the cover crops,” he says. “They wanted to protect those benefits and still get their fertilizing and tillage done.”