Talking with strip-tillers during the early part of 2018, many are making equipment modifications in preparation for the coming cropping season. While planter preparations are top of mind, farmers are also evaluating when, how and where to expand their strip-till operation.

As the ag industry continues to navigate through a down commodities cycle, it’s reasonable to expect farmers will be conservative with their short-term investments.

The results of Strip-Till Farmer’s recent online poll asking strip-tillers to identify areas of their operation they expect to increase spending in 2018 support this thinking. About 38% of respondents indicated they don’t plan to increase their investment this year, the highest total among the survey options.

But market instability isn’t the only factor influencing purchasing decisions. Chatting with several strip-tillers attending the 26th annual National No-Tillage Conference this January in Louisville, they cited manufacturer mergers and acquisitions (both done deals and hypothetical partnerships), product support and generational transition on their farm as contributing factors.

Still, there is reason for optimism and strip-tillers aren’t content to maintain the status quo. Looking at the poll results, nearly half of respondents plan to increase their investment in either precision farming technology (26%) or farm equipment (23%) in 2018.

Comparing these figures to the preliminary data compiled for the 10th annual No-Till Farmer Operation Benchmark Study, those farmers project equipment purchasing increases in 4 categories — planters, combines, air seeders and strip-till rigs — in 2018, compared to last year.

On the technology side, no-tillers forecast increased use of 9 different precision tools, including field mapping, auto-seed shutoff, variable-rate fertilizing and seeding and satellite aerial imagery.

So how about inputs? It appears strip-tillers will be more frugal with their seed and fertilizer investments this year. The online poll results indicate that only 11% of respondents expect to increase spending on fertilizer, and less than 1% for seed.

These projections are in slight contrast to what no-tillers forecast for 2018, with both seed/seed treatment and fertilizer expenses expected to increase this year according to data from the 2018 no-till benchmark study.

It will be interesting to see if and how these forecasts change throughout the year, and soon we’ll be starting to collect, compile and analyze information for the 2018 strip-till operational benchmark study.