Finding Success with Strip-Till
For every farmer, sustainability holds a different meaning. To northern Minnesota sugar beet farmer James Johnstad, his brother Andrew and his father, David, sustainability not only means taking care of their land and resources but also having a farm they will be able to pass on to the next generation.
“Like many, we experienced a tough growing season in 2020 with several of our acres falling into the prevent plant category,” James Johnstad says. “Combined with rising fertilizer costs, inflated fuel prices and declining yields due to terrible wind erosion, we knew we needed to make some adjustments to help us achieve our sustainability and profitability goals.”
That fall, the Johnstads decided to give strip-till and cover cropping a try. They seeded cover crops between the rows and rented a SoilWarrior® as part of Environmental Tillage Systems’ rental program to strip-till a portion of their sugar beet acres.
“We really had nothing to lose,” he said when thinking back to when they decided to apply the strip-till practice on their operation. “We were so amazed. Using the SoilWarrior completely solved our wind erosion problem and then we started to see a domino effect of benefits because of it. It exceeded our expectations.”
Now, just three years later, Johnstad Farms owns a 24-row machine and strip-till 100% of their sugar beet land and about two-thirds of their corn acres. It was a huge change for them to go from all conventional tillage to strip-till and cover cropping, but they are glad they made the leap of faith.
“Strip-tilling wasn’t the norm in our area, particularly for sugar beets. The risk of being wrong really weighed on us, but we knew we needed to try something different in order for our operation to remain sustainable for our generation, our employees and future generations,” says Johnstad.
Since implementing the SoilWarrior, the Johnstads have minimized soil erosion, increased fertilizer efficiency by incorporating fertilizer within the strip and significantly reduced equipment and fuel costs because fewer passes through the field are needed. They’re also seeing added benefits from strip-till including improved soil structure, better water infiltration and improved sugar beet health. All of which led to consistent yields, increased environmental sustainability and a proven return on investment.
Johnstad Farms adopted and found success in the 4R nutrient stewardship practices – right source, right rate, right time and right place – which they began once they implemented strip-tiling and incorporating fertilizer within the strip. So much so, they were nominated and selected as The Fertilizer Institute’s (TFI) 4R Advocate of the Year. This program recognizes agricultural producers who are leading the way in implementing 4R nutrient stewardship on their farms.
“Switching to strip-till has been a great decision for our operation. Environmental and financial sustainability has always been our number one goal, and SoilWarrior has helped us achieve that,” Johnstad emphasizes. “And ETS’ customer service is top notch. They really care about the success of their customers,” he adds.
To learn more about how the SoilWarrior can help you achieve your operational goals, contact our team.