There are those people who get to a certain point in a project and consider the job done. A certain satisfaction, and even relief, comes with completion of a task or a goal achieved.
But for many strip-tillers, the satisfaction may be short-lived because there is always another opportunity for incremental improvement. Most strip-tillers I’ve had the chance to meet are aggressive modifiers, whether it’s nutrient application methods, equipment setups or technology enhancements.
Moderating a roundtable discussion of diverse strip-tillers earlier this year, one of the takeaways was that there is little room for complacency when developing a successful system.
As Frankton, Ind., farmer Mike Shuter says, “In strip-till, if you haven’t gone through a dozen preparations, you haven’t gotten to where you need to be. In our area, there is still a mantra that the more big steel I’ve got in my farm lot, the better farmer I am. On our farm, we’ve overcome that mentality.”
Shuter started with a 24-row no-till planter with just two Rawson coulters and a row cleaner, and evolved to a modified Blu-Jet ammonia bar. But this setup required removing the shanks every time he switched from strip-till to applying ammonia.
So he moved to a John Deere 24-row planter with Martin row cleaners and took the planter bar frame and built a 24-row strip-till bar out of it with the Blu-Jet shanks. He’s since built another strip-till unit using a Stinger strip-till bar with Orthman 1tRIPr row units on it.
Shuter also added a Salford air cart with two 160-cubic-foot and one 65-cubic-foot compartment on it to apply 40 pounds per acre of a micronutrient package in the smaller compartment and then our potash and phosphate in separate compartments. There are eight lines coming off the Salford tank, going into eight towers on the bar to split the fertilizer off.
Shuter readily admits that there’s still more refinement to be done and strip-till perfection is unattainable. And while progress can be frustrating at times, the blood, sweat and tears tend to be rewarded in multiple ways.
“Our organic matter has gone up on average, 0.6% during the last 8 years, across our entire operation, from 2.6% to 3.2%,” Shuter says. “A big part of that is cover crops we’ve incorporated, but it’s also about the changes we’ve made to our system throughout the years that continue to help us improve, and we’re not done yet.”
What is the latest change you’ve made to your strip-till system? Share your story with me at (262) 777-2441, or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.