Transition Rapid & Successful - Michigan Grower Chris Guza Embraces Strip-Till System & Switch to Narrow Rows - By Don Lilleboe
Though 2011 will be just his third year producing sugarbeets under a strip-till system, Chris Guza has already implemented some big changes.
First, he has replaced his original strip-till unit — a converted row-crop cultivator — with a new SoilWarrior machine manufactured by Environmental Tillage Systems (ETS). And second, he has now transitioned from 30-inch rows into 22s.
Guza, who farms in Michigan’s Huron, Sanilac and Tuscola counties, moved into strip till in 2008 because of the opportunities he saw for reduced field passes in preparing his seedbed. He was already planting his beets into a stale seedbed and liked it. “But we didn’t like how much effort it took to get the ground fit to stale seedbed,” he recounts. Most of Guza’s sugarbeets follow corn. “So we’d harvest the corn, shred the stalks, variable-rate apply our P and K (in separate passes), disk rip and then field cultivate.”
Left: The secondary ‘spring tillage’ configuration of Chris Guza’s SoilWarrior implement uses two 20-inch offset wavy coulters along with soil firmers and on-the-go adjustable air down pressure to match field conditions.
The converted row-crop cultivator used to prepare a strip-tilled seedbed for most of his 2009 and 2010 beet acreage generally worked well. “But it was just a little too ‘tempermental’ in the corn stalks,” Guza relates. “It uses a shank, and we had some plugging
behind corn in our heavy clay soils.”
That’s why he opted to purchase the SoilWarrior last year from Faribault, Minn.-based ETS.
The SoilWarrior offers both deep-tillage and shallow-tillage configurations for a two-pass seedbed prepara- tion regimen. For primary fall tillage, it uses a 30-inch serrated deep-tillage cog and containment coulter system to produce a tilled zone eight to 10 inches wide and up to 12 inches deep. Liquid or dry fertilizer can be applied with this pass.
With the shallow spring soil-conditioning pass, two 20-inch wavy coulters replace the deep tillage cog, conditioning and tilling the planting zone at a two- to four-inch depth. Subsurface fertilizer placement is again an option during this pass.
Fall 2010 provided the first opportunity for Guza to try out his SoilWarrior. First, however, he traded out its original toolbar, set for 30-inch rows, for one set up for 22s. So he ended up working 12 22-inch rows while simultaneously banding on his dry P and K fertilizers. He tilled at the maximum depth of 12 inches, pulling the SoilWarrior with a Case IH STX 485 at speeds averaging 6.5 mph.
Guza utilized the SoilWarrior on about 1,200 acres last fall, 400 of which were corn ground going into sugarbeets in 2011. “I went through standing corn stalks and never had any issues,” he reports.
While his original plan was to forgo the soil-conditioning pass this spring, he may opt for that second pass after all. Because his 2010 corn was in 30-inch rows and his 2011 beets will be in 22s, he ended up tilling on top of some of the old corn rows, and didn’t get as thorough an incorporation of the corn residue as he preferred. “But that’s just a transition issue, going from 30s to 22s,” Guza observes. “I don’t anticipate any problems [in future years].”
One big benefit of the 30-inch deep tillage cogs on his new strip-till unit, he adds, is that “with this ‘wheel,’ you don’t get the smearing effect we get in our clay soils with a shank and point. So we’re not creating a hardpan at the bottom of the strip.”
The SoilWarrior is equipped with GPS implement steering guidance, as is Guza’s planter. “RTK guidance really makes it work,” he affirms. “You can run a 60-foot planter, and guess rows aren’t a problem.
“It’s all pretty exciting for us.”
Don Lilleboe is editor of 'The Sugarbeet Grower' and 'Gilmore Sugar Manual.'