Looking ahead to 2023, three Midwest strip-tillers share solutions they’re using to work though issues facing the industry and the environment.

Supply chain disruptions continue to impact the agriculture industry and farmers across the country. Advanced planning has helped Snover, Mich., strip-tiller Ryan Shaw work through these challenges.

“When we buy a set of disc blades for the soil rotor, we might buy two sets just so we have them at the shop. The same goes for oil and bearings,” he says. “We’ve gotten pretty used to pre-buying herbicides. When the crop service gets the delivery, we will go pick it up just to have it on the farm. And instead of returning our excess, we stock it for next year.”

Others adjusted their plans and, in some cases, switched suppliers.

“We had to go with a bigger supplier in 2022,” says Ryan Nell, a producer in Beaver Dam, Wis. “We ended up using our local co-op, which actually worked out very well.”

When things do not go according to plan, it is important for producers to be flexible and creative. Rock Creek, Minn., strip-tiller Jon Stevens did some quick thinking when he was forced to plant this spring before his herbicide shipment arrived.

“We moved half the farm to an organic setup because of a lack of herbicide availability,” he says. “We pulled the small weeds and did it old school. Hopefully we can add more of that into our rotation.”

Reducing his operation’s environmental footprint is not only important to Stevens, but also to the millions of people who live an hour south of him in the Twin Cities. Stevens uses cover crops and strip-till to reduce runoff on his farm and increase water filtration into the soil. He said the difference in runoff reduction is remarkable, especially after heavy rain.  

“The shank machine of strip-till in our area with our soil is a huge addition to the cover crops,” Stevens says. “Cover crops will slow the water flowing down on the surface with the strip-till shank. That slot will open and allow water to get into the profile instead of going to the St. Croix River.”

Cover crops and strip-till can exist in harmony, but producers may need to adjust their management practices for success. Nell says getting a strip-till bar through massive cover crops could be an issue, so strip-tillers in this situation may need to terminate the cover crop earlier instead of trying to strip-till into it when still green. However, the panelists are confident anyone can find a way to make cover crops work.

“Anything to improve soil health can work anywhere,” Stevens says. “Producers just need to find ways to work it into their operations. In our operation, we did not change anything to incorporate cover crops. We broadcast them into our no-till and strip-till acres.”