An Illinois-based company is hiding something to help farmers and improve water quality.
Precision Planting commercially released its Conceal nutrient-placement system for planters this year. It’s a knife, located inside a groove in a gauge wheel, that incorporates nitrogen fertilizer beside the furrow.
Conceal can put either a single or dual band of nutrients beside the row.
Agronomist Cory Muhlbauer, with Precision Planting’s research and development division, believes more farmers will embrace in-season fertilizer application and banding to reduce rates, cost and runoff without sacrificing yields.
Developers believe applying nitrogen when planting corn is a great idea but not at the expense of seed placement. They also know a knife is the best incorporating method, but it took trial and error to figure out a groove in the gauge wheel was the best place for it.
“You can hardly see the knife,” Muhlbauer says. “It’s more tucked into the gauge wheel. Both work independently of each other.”
As a result, nitrogen application depth is consistent as the planter rounds curves or traverses uneven seedbeds.
Plants need fertilizer while they’re growing. In the case of corn, the first important time is from V4 to V8.
It’s then the plant determines the maximum size of an ear it can produce. By banding nitrogen at planting next to the furrow, it’s readily available to the crown roots when needed.
Precision Planting reports a farmer who tested Conceal last year noticed a 5-bushel-per-acre jump in corn yields. At $3.50 per bushel, that’s $17.50 per acre in additional revenue.
Banded nutrients can reduce the total amount of needed fertility by up to 30% compared to broadcast applications, the company claims.
“I believe in the future that farmers will do a better job applying fertilizer,” Muhlbauer says. “That includes banding more nutrients and moving more applications in-season.”
Future of fertilizer
Steve Hettinger, a row-crop farmer from Tolono, Illinois, and Precision Planting dealer, also believes fertilizer application will improve.
Hettinger had doubts whether Midwest farmers working flat, black ground like his would spend $650 per row to outfit a planter with single-band Conceal or $850 for dual-band (a knife on each side of the furrow). He even turned down his initial allotment of 24 units--supplies are limited--not wanting to sit on inventory.
Then a customer wanted 24 units, and others have shown interest, as well. Hettinger’s skepticism disappeared. He’s working to fill the order and build inventory.
“There’s a lot of interest,” Hettinger says. “Reducing costs, boosting yields and improving water quality are hot topics now. Spoon-feeding plants is what we should be doing to be good stewards, and it helps the bottom line.”
Hettinger is confident a positive return on investment will occur with Conceal. And, not just monetarily.
Nitrogen runoff from ag land in the Midwest contributing to the “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico continues to be an issue, Hettinger says. Farmers need to act, he continues, or voluntary state nutrient-reduction strategies could become regulatory.
“Farmers need to be proactive, not reactive,” he says.
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