Business Case: Ryberg Farms


Brian and Sandy Ryberg farm 5,300 acres in south-central Minnesota. Farming since 1986, Brian took ownership of the operation in 1997 and today they grow corn, soybeans, and sugar beets. Soil health and conservation are important to the Rybergs. They enrolled in an SHP on-farm trial in 2018 and were recognized in 2019 with SHP’s Seeds of Change award for their contribution to collaborative efforts to educate farmers about soil health practices.

The data shared here were collected as part of a 2021 report, Conservation's Impact on the Farm Bottom Line.

Farmer Profile

  • Owners: Brian and Sandy Ryberg
  • Farm size: 5,300 acres
  • Crops grown: Corn, soybeans, sugar beets
  • Conservation practices: Strip-till, no-till, cover crops
  • Conservation goals: Save costs, improve soil health through reduced disturbance and increased cover

Brian and Sandy Ryberg care deeply about soil health and conservation. As a part of the recent report, Conservation's Impact on the Farm Bottom Line, they shared their financial data to help others learn about the economic impacts of their soil health approach.

About the Conservation System

  • Use an ETS SoilWarrior® XS 24-row/22-inch strip-till bar with two fertilizer tanks and variable-rate capabilities 
  • Strip-till in the fall with P&K and sometimes micronutrient applications 
  • Plant directly into the strips in the spring with no additional tillage passes
  • Interseed a mix of annual ryegrass, hairy vetch, turnip, and rapeseed into corn (at V-6, approx. eight inches tall) while sidedressing nitrogen
  • If the cover crop is well established after corn harvest, they no-till the following spring’s soybeans
  • Seed cereal rye after sugar beet harvest to protect against wind erosion
Brian Ryberg evaluating soil health
Brian Ryberg the soil in a no-till field with an emerging corn crop.

profitability impacts

The Rybergs have a profitable strip-till and cover crop system, primarily due to fuel and equipment cost savings combined with conservation program revenues.

25% reduction in field passes led to a 60% decrease in fuel consumption (approx. $52.50/acre saved)

Further savings (approx. $20/acre) realized when cover crop is well established and Brian can no-till soybeans

Moved from two four-wheel-drive (4WD) tractors at 400 hours/year to one 4WD tractor at 200 hours/year (approx. $25.31-$36.59/acre – or $103,800-$150,000 per year – saved)

Estimated using Machinery Cost Estimates from The Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics at the University of Illinois.

For using cover crops, USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) provides $18/acre and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) provides $40,000 for 1,500 acres (~$27 per acre)

Estimated strip-till equipment savings for Ryberg Farms

Financial InformationConventional TillageStrip-Till
Total cost per acre (overhead, labor, fuel)$173-$250 (lower end assumes a 370 HP tractor; higher end assumes a 620 HP tractor)
Number of hours400200
Number of tractors21
Number of acres4,1004,100
Total cost per acre$33.75-$48.78$8.44-$12.19
Cost savings per acre$25.31-$36.59
Cost savings per year$103,800-$150,000

“By using conservation tillage practices and cover crops, we've been able to save substantially on fuel, equipment and repair costs. Plus, this practices have had may other soil health benefits, including improved water holding capacity and better drained seedbeds.” – Brian Ryberg



In addition to cost savings from reduced tillage, Brian has seen other benefits from conservation practices including improved water holding capacity, more water infiltration, improved soil structure, better drained seed beds and weed suppression. He hopes that, by connecting soil health to financial data, farmers can have more intentional conversations with lenders. 

“If I am showing an entry for cover crop seed, how do I show something on the income side to offset that?” Ryberg said. “There are hidden numbers there, and I hope someday we can quantify that.” SHP and EDF believe that, by measuring financial outcomes of conservation production systems, it will help farmers work with their financial partners to recognize the cost savings that are associated with cover crops, and not just the upfront costs.

Want to learn more about conservation practices and farm finances?

Dig into our report Conservation's Impact on the Farm Bottom Line!