Mike Verdonck isn’t shy about calling his SoilWarrior “the best machine on my farm.” But he did take a bit of a scenic route before making that discovery.
Verdonck farms with his brother-in-law close to the St. Lawrence River south of Montreal, Quebec in Canada. He farms about 2,500 acres, growing corn, soybeans, wheat, and some canning crops. He’s also started including cover crops.
Several years ago, Verdonck began doing some no-till, but because of the heavy clay soils and cool temperatures he had to contend with, yields weren’t up to par. He then looked into strip-tillage and decided to experiment. He did what many farmers do—he improvised, converting an old field cultivator into a strip-till machine. Verdonck says it worked well on dry soils, but struggled in wet ground and in areas with heavy corn stalks.
He then bought a strip-till machine but wasn’t entirely happy with the results. All along “I kept hearing about this SoilWarrior,” Verdonck says.
Eventually he called Environmental Tillage Systems (ETS) to learn more about what the SoilWarrior offered. That led to a trip to Faribault, Minnesota, to tour the ETS plant to see firsthand how the machine is built. He came away very impressed. Three years ago he purchased his own.
“Sometimes it costs you money to try to save money,” Verdonck says. “I should have invested in the SoilWarrior to begin with.”
Verdonck likes how the system helps him manage fertilizer, how easily it handles heavy crop residue and its overall simplicity. He says it also works seamlessly with his cover crops. But the main thing he says the machine offers is efficiency.
“Cost of production is very important. We want to be efficient but we also want yield,” he says. “We don’t see any yield drag when managed properly.”
With the SoilWarrior’s variable rate technology, Verdonck can place the nutrients where they’re most needed. That has helped minimize yield variability across the field. Verdonck also likes the fact that his equipment inventory is much smaller than what is required for conventional farming. The SoilWarrior’s versatility has allowed him to downsize—something he likens to a modern mobile phone.
“Thirty years ago you needed a telephone, a notebook, a camera and all these other pieces of equipment that you now have built right into your phone,” he says. “Now I can get by with a couple tractors, a planter, and SoilWarrior.”
Verdonck says farmers interested in conservation tillage should be cautious about believing every sales pitch equipment companies make. Growers can learn a lot about what really works by attending the National Strip-Tillage Conference. Many of the farmers there are strip-tillage veterans who are willing to share their learning experiences. Sometimes that experience has taught them to make a wise investment right away.
“The ones who have been through hell now have a SoilWarrior,” Verdonck adds.