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Satisfactory Crop Residue Management Is a Key for the Carlquists of Southern Idaho
By Don Lilleboe
Doug and Melanie Carlquist were among a sizable contingent of Idaho sugarbeet producers who attended a strip-till seminar and field demonstration hosted by Amalgamated Sugar Company back in the summer of 2008. And, like a number of those attending, they were impressed enough with the perceived benefits of the production system that they purchased a new strip-till unit for deployment in their upcoming row crop fields.
Cover Crop & Strip Till Among Key Elements in Producing 47-Ton Beets Following Potatoes on Sandy Soils
Jason Meyers is old enough to have gone through some tough years, young enough to still be hungry for new challenges — and good enough to rank among the top growers of Amalgamated Sugar Company. And he does it all by operating in two locales far enough apart that he travels between them by airplane.
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Four years ago, Steve Maier and Ben Bergen set out on the strip-till route for reasons similar to those of a number of other Idaho sugarbeet producers doing so at that time. Their objectives were to (1) minimize wind erosion (and replants) on lighter soils, (2) reduce field passes prior to planting (saving time and fuel), and (3) bolster overall crop productivity. Some of the initial interest among the state’s beet producers has softened during the past year or two — often because of management issues with heavy trash in 22-inch rows. But for Maier and his employee Bergen, the interest in — and benefits of — strip-tilled beets still runs strong on the Maier farm near Rupert.
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.”
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.
Results from Year One of Idaho Strip-Tillage Study
By Amber Moore, Don Morishita & Oliver Neher*
The introduction of strip tillage to sugarbeet production in southern Idaho has brought challenges as well as opportunities to local beet growers. One challenge is accounting for chaff (residue) trails left behind by combines. These trails create uneven distribution of residue throughout the field, which can be a challenge for ensuing crop production with strip tillage.
Specifically, growers are concerned that the areas with little residue will be droughty and more susceptible to weed growth, while areas with heavy residue coverage may have more fertilizer and herbicide binding in the residue — and more soil-borne disease pressure under a cooler, more-moist and higher-carbon soil environment.
Mari Brothers of N.E. Colorado Enthused With Strip-Till System, But Always Seeking Improvement
Left: Bob Mari (at left) and his brother Rod have grown sugarbeets for Western Sugar Cooperative since 2000, prior to its becoming a co-op. Their father, Clarence (right), a second-generation grower for the old Great Western Sugar Company, stopped raising beets in 1972, so there was a nearly 30-year gap for the crop on the Mari farm near Merino, Colo.
Bob Mari will never be a poster boy for the “This Is the Way We’ve Always Done It” club. First, he’s a sugarbeet grower. Second, he’s a young beet grower. And third, he and brother Rod are relatively new beet growers, so they’re not bound by long-term habits or tradition. They are, instead, motivated simply by the desire and need to make their operation as efficient — and profitable — as possible. And employing a strip-till production system is a primary vehicle for the Mari brothers. The northeastern Colorado growers have planted their center-pivot sugarbeet acres under strip till since the 2005 crop year.
Editor & General Manager of The Sugarbeet Grower