Winter is staking its early claim in many parts of the country, and for fall strip-tillers, it’s been a race to get strips built before snow permanently blankets their fields. Several I’ve talked to recently say they’ll probably have to consider spring strip-tilling a portion of their acres due to the uncooperative weather this fall.

Regardless of the timing, the objective of preparing an ideal seedbed remains the same. And when it’s time to plant next year, strip-tillers need to make sure they look below their berms, says Kevin Kimberely, owner of Kimberley Ag Consulting in Maxwell, Iowa.

I recently had the chance to visit Kimberley on a rare day he isn’t on the road or in the field to discuss some of his 2014 observations. One of his most significant revelations came during this year’s planting.

While doing a planter evaluation in a farmer’s field, he noticed a pattern of shallow, misplaced corn seeds and saw the gauge wheels kicking up dirt from the row. He went in for a closer look and found that the walls of the row were fractured and raised.

“The gauge wheels were running over all the residue going up and down, causing that sidewall lift, which can have a huge impact on emergence,” Kimberley says. “In strip-till, you need more downpressure because those wheels aren’t riding on soft ground — it’s firm — and it’s one of the things we see missed the most.”

One of the best practices for strip-tillers to do in the spring is to take a spade and cut a slot to examine the soil profile and check for sidewall lift. Kimberley says that soil profile should be together without any gaps or fractures.

“I’ve seen a lot of farmers get carried away with their berms, but it should be almost flat in spring, because if it’s raised, that means you’ll probably blow more dirt out,” he says. “But once you know what you’re looking for, it can be corrected.”

What lessons did you learn in your strip-till operation this season? Share you story with me at (262) 782-4480, ext. 441, or send me an e-mail at