The term strip-till may be foreign to some or the idea of changing a practice that has been done for many years on your farm can be mind-boggling. Until you can fully comprehend that strip-till is a systematic approach and not a cure-all, you may be telling yourself every reason in the book about why it won’t work on your farm.Being with Environmental Tillage Systems for over 12 years, Dave has heard every excuse in the book for why "strip-till won’t work on my farm." Let’s see how Dave helps farmers overcome the idea of switching to strip-till and using a Soilwarrior.
“It will never work on MY ground.”
When I hear this statement, people are referring to how unique their soils are. Each soil type and each farm is unique in some way or another. At ETS, we pride ourselves on making the SoilWarrior work in all kinds of field conditions. We have machines running in the volcanic soils of New Zealand, to the beautiful soils of Illinois, to drought conditions in Texas. This has allowed us to understand what it takes to strip-till on YOUR ground.
With all the experiences ETS has gained over the years, we are accustomed to looking at all circumstances and coming up with an initial set-up for the SoilWarrior. When it’s time to run in the field, we can make adjustments such as the pitch to the toolbar, pitch of the containment coulters and coulter type, travel speed, and airbag pressure. These adjustments can be made quickly and require very little or no tools.
“We have rocks.”
This is one of my favorite. Many customers think rocks will be an extreme obstacle to manage with strip tillage, but the opposite is true. The SoilWarrior row units have air pressure for the downforce and have parallel links that allow up to 17” of vertical travel. With a coulter-based row-unit (no shank), the row units can roll up and over rocks. The hubs that hold the coulter are a tapered roller bearing/oil bath hub which aids in durability. Another great benefit with a coulter-based row-unit is that you will not be pulling rocks to the surface and picking rocks will become a thing of the past. "When people tell me "we have rocks," I usually reply, "great, that does not bother us!"
“Tillage is the ONLY way my soil will dry out.”
Traditionally, the thought process was that we needed to perform intensive tillage to dry out our soils in the spring, break up compaction, warm the soil quickly and prepare an ideal seedbed for planting. Most research has suggested that conventional tillage and strip-till warm up at the same pace; some suggest that strip-till might be a little faster. Also, minimizing the amount of tillage allows the soil to create larger soil aggregates which will allow for better water infiltration. In return, the amount of standing water after large rainfalls is less. Those large aggregates also absorb water faster.
“I don’t have enough qualified operators.”
I’m not going to lie, but it will take an operator who is more attentive to details and planning. I recommend that you have your planter operator running the SoilWarrior or someone you would trust running the planter. The logic behind this being that those lines established by strip-till will be exactly where you will be planting and need to be planting. I always advise that if the operators (planter vs. SoilWarrior) are going to be two (or more) different people, you should have them meet and plan out how they will layout the fields. Either way, you want to make sure everyone is on the same page. This also includes how fields will be labeled with regards to field names, headland names, etc.
“It’s too expensive.”
When people first start looking into strip-till, or the SoilWarrior specifically, a common first reaction is “that’s too expensive.” Initially, people are still thinking along the lines of keeping most, if not all, of their conventional equipment and continuing to make just as many passes across the field. However, the SoilWarrior is meant to replace all your conventional tillage equipment, as well as fertilizer spreaders. Growers start to add the numbers up. Most of our customers tell us they immediately realized a 30% - 50% reduction in fuel consumption as well as a 50% decrease in tractor hours. Another popular approach is to variable rate apply fertilizers. In some instances, growers have reduced their overall fertilizer use by up to 30% through the use of VRT and placing the fertilizer in the zone right where the plant will use the product. All of these factors: equipment savings, fewer passes across the field resulting in reduced tractor hours and fuel savings, and increased fertilizer efficiency, adds up fast. A SoilWarrior can pay for itself quickly.
“The technology is complicated.”
At one time this was an accurate statement. However, technology has gotten easier to use and more intuitive over time. ETS wants the technology on the SoilWarrrior to be as user friendly as possible and make it universal. The SoilWarrior comes with its own technology, SWICM, which stands for SoilWarrior ISOBUS Control Module. It is compatible with practically any ISO system on the marketplace and can be used with almost any monitor. ETS always offers full support to our customers to help eliminate complications. When a machine is delivered, an ETS employee we will hook the machine to your tractor, install everything in the cab, then teach you how to use the technology and the machine. We will not leave until you are comfortable running the machine. And, our service team is available 24/7 for remote assistance.
Whatever your hesitation for diving into strip tillage, you're likely not the only farmer that has ever faced it. Don't let a particular dilemma stop you from starting the conversation about strip tillage and toward improved soil health and nutrient stewardship.