Stale seedbeds — wherein fields are tilled in the fall and then left untouched the following spring until the planter rolls in — have really caught on in Michigan the past several years. Nearly one-fourth of the state’s sugarbeet fields were planted into a stale seedbed this past season, compared to probably less than 5% just three or four years ago.
Clay Crumbaugh is a longtime member of the stale-seedbed fraternity. He, wife Christine and father Rex, who farm in the Breckenridge-St. Louis vicinity, have been planting beets into a stale seedbed for the past 15 years. They began doing so on half their acreage and within three years had expanded the practice to 100% of their upcoming beet ground.
More recently, however, the Crumbaughs have diverted some of their sugarbeet acreage into zone (strip) till. And it all began with a 2007 corn field.