It’s no secret that farmers are continuing to be more conservative with their new equipment purchases until the tide turns on the commodities market. This approach also extends to precision technology, although strip-tillers may be more willing to flex the budget depending on the return-on-investment potential.    

For small-acreage strip-tillers like Gary Wolf, crunching the numbers on technology payback is especially vital. Farming about 500 acres of corn, wheat and soybeans near Verona, Mo., Wolf is a student of precision farming practices, but also wants to financially size up any upgrade or add-on.

Earlier this year, we noted that Wolf has seen measureable savings in fertilizer application costs through rigorous soil testing and analysis. But it’s been more challenging for him to quantify the cost vs. reward of an enhanced GPS signal for his diverse rotation of corn, cover crops, corn, wheat and doubled-cropped soybeans.

He currently relies on a Raven Cruizer II guidance system for planting, spraying and strip-tilling with a 6-row bar with Yetter Maverick row units. The setup has worked well, but Wolf says he plans to upgrade to a 12-row planter in the future. He wants to make sure that any upgrade will reliably make the two passes of the 6-row strip-till unit match the one pass of the planter.

“My challenge this winter is to identify a system that will give me greater accuracy that won’t cost too much,” he says. Also factoring into Wolf’s research is the size of his fields, which range from as small as 20 acres to only as large as 70 acres.

“There are no quarter section fields around here,” he says.  

Whatever system Wolf goes with, he’ll want it to be something that will allow room for expansion — without having to break the bank in the future. More specifically, he’s looking into adding variable-rate fertilizer application and would like to do so in an affordable manner.

“We like to try different things,” Wolf says. “We are innovative, but we have to look at the cost of the technology closely to make sure it makes sense for us.”

What precision upgrades or updates are your looking to add to your strip-till operation? Share your perspective with me at (262) 777-2441, or send me an e-mail at