By Matt Reese
As more emphasis is being placed on nutrient management, the agricultural industry is responding with new innovations or new spins on old ones. Here is a small sampling of some industry innovation on the subject.
“We realize that nutrient management and application of fertilizer is a critical piece of the planting process. No planter is the same with that so we have decided to partner with SureFire Ag who is really a specialist in the industry to provide the best fertilizer solution as a factory installed item for any customer,” said Brad Niensteadt with Kinze. “We want to dive in and make sure the fertilizer solution we provide to them is exactly what they want to get the most bang for their fertilizer buck. We just started that partnership and we are just starting the early order season for the 2021 planting season in April. You can start configuring your SureFire ag fertilizer solutions in April.”
Subsurface placement of nutrients helps keep them where they are needed by plants and out of waterways, though the logistics of doing this can be challenging.
“The biggest thing is the placement of fertilizer near or on the row as fast and efficiently as possible. You have to do it quickly because there is not a lot of time to do it,” said Chris Lursen, Case IH tillage marketing manager. “The traditional strip-till bar is one option. It places nutrients 6 or 7 inches down. It is a little slow and you need a skilled operator. We have that available from 8- to 24-row application. The newest product that is catching the most attention is our Nutri-Placer high-speed low-disturbance row unit, which is available from 27.5-feet all the way to 65-feet and everything in between to do a subsurface application of anhydrous or liquid or liquid and dry or dry only. It can go up to 10 or 11 miles per hour in the field so there is a lot of opportunity for high productivity and getting the fertilizer placed in the ground.”
The goal is to minimize altering the soil structure of the field.
“The low disturbance function of it is important. The key is that 12 hours later you can’t even tell you were in the field. It looks like a no-tilled field,” Lursen said. “Unlike strip-till, the high-speed low-disturbance tool doesn’t need your most skilled operator. You have got to carry fertilizer with you though, and that is the time-consuming part.”
In terms of implementation of cover crops to help stabilize nutrients and improve soil structure, some older equipment designs have been updated for new uses.
“For a long time, Unverferth has manufactured a rolling harrow for seedbed preparation. We have started to offer a cover crop seeder to put on there. We meter the seed and have a blower on there to distribute it in front of the tool itself and those baskets do a good job of incorporating the seed into the soil,” said Chris Pohlman with Unverferth. “It is not an extremely aggressive tillage pass but it is enough to get that cover crop started. It is an application where you can cover a lot of ground pretty quickly and get multiple uses out of a tool at a lot less application cost than comparable application methods. There is a roller to meter the seed and a hydraulically driven fan to blow it. We have some diffusers in front of the tool to diffuse the seed in front of those baskets.”
The rolling harrow features two different basket designs.
“We have a front basket with an angled blade that is more aggressive and designed to hit the ground straight with a cutting action to break up the soil and a rear basket that hits it more like a paddle to firm it up,” Pohlman said. “We have it available in up to 37-foot width, and we are working on larger models as well to give us more versatility. Customers see it as a great opportunity to get more acres covered more quickly.”
In terms of the nutrients themselves, a number of companies have provided innovative new options in recent years. Michigan-based AgroLiquid products allow for more efficient nutrient use.
“We have a proprietary plant protein we call a flavanol polymer that allows us to chelate and encapsulate our plant nutrition. We can reduce rates of actual fertilizer we put out on the ground and achieve the same results by reducing things like tie up in the soil and leaching of nitrogen. Many of the loss factors you have in the soil we are able to mitigate,” said Reid Abbott, an AgroLiquid agronomist. “In addition to protecting those nutrients we are able to extend that feeding longer out into the season, so we don’t have off-target nutrients going down the stream or the tile lines because the plant is able to use it. One of the things we have been focused on is being able to fit into the wide array of application methods out there. There are plenty of ways to get nutrients out there on the planter or in-season now and we are able to fit into a lot of those situations because of how we protect those nutrients. One of the key ways we like to put out our products is right underneath the soil in the root zone without any adverse effects.”
Ohio-based NACHURS has been focused on the production of products targeting the 4Rs of nutrient management for years.
“We think we are the original 4R stewardship company. As more people entered that market, we have moved into a line of products called Bio-K products that have added tremendous value to farmers by having a different form of potassium. With these new technologies it adds a different dynamic of what we do to add value,” said Bob Ruebel, with NACHURS. “Our products are primarily in furrow, but we now have a start to finish program. We can go in furrow, 2X2, sidedress, foliar and all forms of fertigation. It is a unique set of products so we can touch every acre. There are no other companies that can provide all of those products. We can provide key nutrients in the right place at the right time to get more ROI from your fertilizer dollar.”