Timing can be everything when building strips, and in talking with farmers, it seems more are becoming loyal to one time of year or the other, depending on convenience, weather or availability of hired help.

These preferences were even more pronounced in analysis of the recently published 4th Annual Strip-Till Operational Benchmark study, which evaluated the 2016 cropping practices of nearly 450 farmers from 20 states and Canada who identified themselves as strip-tillers.

The percentage of farmers who preferred to build strips in fall or spring both increased by double digits for in 2016 compared to 2015. For the third year in a row, the majority of strip-tillers chose fall strip-till with 55.3% getting back into the field after harvest. This marks a 13-point increase over 2015 (42.3%) and a 17-point jump over 2014 (38.6%).

But those farmers who built strips ahead of planting also increased from a low of 28.7% in 2015 to a new high of 40.4% last year. With more defined preferences, it made sense that the number of respondents who strip-till in both spring and fall declined to 30.8% from a high of 35.6% in 2015.

While data revealed dramatic year-over-year differences in when farmers build strips, there was less variance in the type of row unit setups strip-tillers utilize. At least 37% of respondents said they used either shank-style, coulter or mole knife setups on their strip-till rig.

Talking with farmers during the last year, several had added new, used or modified secondary strip-till rigs to use during different seasons, with shanks more commonly associated with fall strips and coulters utilized in spring. While strip-tillers often have an ideal window when they like to build strips, it’s not always possible. So having a back-up plan with the right equipment can be an asset.

For the fourth year in a row, the most popular setup was shank-style row units, although the percentage has declined the last 2 years. Some 42.9% of strip-tillers utilize shanks, compared to 44.3% in 2015 and 46.7% in 2014.

Use of coulter setups increased from 32.9% in 2015 to 37.1% last year, validating the increase in spring strip-till in 2016, but the total is well below the 45% who utilized the system in 2014. Use of mole knife setups also increased, albeit slightly, from 36.7% in 2015 to 38% last year.

See more coverage of the 4th Annual Strip-Till Operational Benchmark study in our recent webinar event replay on www.StripTillFarmer.com and share with me your berm-building preferences. Call me at 262-777-2441 or email me at jzemlicka@lessitermedia.com.