A 'medium compaction' study plot area shows the difference in sugarbeet plant growth with zero tillage (left) and with zone tillage shanks set at a 10-inch depth (right).
Zone (strip) tillage in sugarbeets has become notably more popular in recent years across the beet-producing areas of Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana. The system conserves soil, soil water and input energy compared to “broadcast” tillage systems that employ a moldboard plow, disk and/or chisel plow. Zone-till implements also can be used to apply fertilizer or Telone II at one or more depths below where the seed will eventually be placed. With some systems, the beet planter can be positioned on the rear of the zone-till tool for a true one-pass tillage-planting operation.
Crumbaughs Among Handful of Michigan Growers Employing Zone Till in Sugarbeets
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.
Don Lilleboe is editor of 'The Sugarbeet Grower' and 'Gilmore Sugar Manual.'