One machinery trend I have observed when attending the National Farm Machinery Show (NFMS) is the number of companies producing fertilizer application equipment has just exploded over the last couple of years. Since my main beat is fertilizer and tracking retail fertilizer prices, I tend to notice things like this.
Five or six years ago the number of manufacturers producing fertilizer application equipment -- especially sidedressing application implements -- was considerably lower. Since farmers want to be more efficient when applying fertilizer just as the plants needs nutrients and they fear possible federal or state regulations on fertilizer application, the move to split applications of nitrogen is real.
Most of these new applicators are designed for liquid nitrogen fertilizer sidedressing, not anhydrous, which my mind automatically jumps to.
When I was a kid I can remember my dad and uncle sidedressing their corn acres once in a while with a rig that would apply anhydrous. They didn't like to sidedress, mainly because they farmed land which was rolling and had terraces, so they ran over a lot of plants hitting all the point rows in their irregular-shaped fields.
Of course, these new sidedressing application tools are nothing like the crude tool bars of the 1980s with knives pulling an anhydrous tank.
The sidedressing equipment was very striking as I walked through NFMS. A large tank mounted on an axle with tractor-sized tires and an application bar with knifes or a coulter is an implement that does gather some attention.
Looking at the specifications of some of the sidedressing application equipment, there is a range of sizes and various options available.
From the information I gathered, tank sizes ranged from as small as 750 gallons all the way up to 2,400 gallons. Tool bar size generally ranged from 20 to 40 feet, but I did see some bars that were as long as 60 feet.
You could apply A LOT of liquid nitrogen with a 60-foot application bar.
Most of the applicators utilized a 20-inch coulter followed with a knife, which would inject the fertilizer into the soil. As for row spacing, most were set up to handle 30-inch rows, but I know some also could be configured to apply to 20- and 22-inch rows.
Many years ago I interviewed an Extension specialist and I remember he said the future of nitrogen fertilizer application was going to be in split applications. I really had not heard, much less seen, farmers applying their nitrogen fertilizer in a couple different trips across the field.
I wondered how willing farmers would be to make more trips across their fields to apply nitrogen when just one trip would mean less fuel burned. Farmers would be willing to make more trips in the fields if they could become even more efficient delivering N to the plants at the stage of growth they needed it most, the Extension person told me.
It looks like he was right from the number of manufacturers with application equipment for sale at this year's NFMS.
Russ Quinn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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