The Anhydrous Application Conundrum

The Anhydrous Application Conundrum from Central Valley Ag on Vimeo.

by Keith Byerly

by Keith Byerly

As I look at the calendar, it appears to me that we are less than three weeks away from the beginning of the 2017 crop year. I know there are those of you out there that are going to begin applying Anhydrous Ammonia November 1st as the base of your 2017 Corn Crops fertility system. But with this, we begin to open a can of worms when it comes to your base rate for next season.

Vapor and cold flow anhydrous systems rely on tank pressure for distribution and injection. Those of you that apply anhydrous know this, you have been doing it for years. But tank pressure varies greatly with outside temperature. And therein lies the conundrum. The higher the outside temperature, the better job we can do with application, but the less stable our nitrogen is. Again, I am not going to retrace conversations that Mike Zwingman has made along the way in his Reachout Blog on Mondays, but we need to be applying nitrogen when our risk is low of loss. So then back to the conundrum, as temperature goes down, we have less tank pressure to work with.

Screen Shot 2016-10-20 at 3.39.45 PMOver the last few years, bars have gotten bigger, application speed has gotten faster, and rates have stayed the same or gotten higher. So, that means we are relying on the same pressure to push more product out. Understanding that – it’s no doubt that studies have shown a 25% variation between rows in actual application rate applied. That means if you are applying 150# of actual N, it is a very real possibility you have rows applying as little 113# and as much as 187#. So if those are the problems facing us, what is the solution? In my opinion, we have two real choices, on that revolves around Economics and Agronomics, and one that revolves around technology.

Economically and Agronomically, I believe our best possible decision is to cut our rate by 50%. That means we have much less variation row to row with a rate, we have a good foundation to build a VRN platform off of, and we have less Nitrogen at risk for loss, and more Nitrogen applied closer to when it is needed. Even with the extra application and difference in product costs, I believe we can show you an economic benefit to this approach.

On the other hand, I know a lot of you are not going to change when and how you are applying Nitrogen, so what can technology do to help? The 360 Equi-Flow system is a superior system to a Raven AccuFlow. That is because it keeps NH3 in liquid form all the way to the injectors. It does this by using a pump, but also with its tower system. In the tower, ammonia is separated into gas and liquid. The Gas is then condensed back down to liquid before it moves to the pump. With its distributor and hoses, we know we are getting a consistent rate at each row, and with the flow meter, you know you are getting the rate you want out there. And, keeping the product in liquid form until it goes in the ground, we should see less icing on our knives, and less gas releasing form the soil.

Anhydrous application is a fast and furious time of year. Now is the time to talk to your ACS equipment technician about how technology can help us overcome inconsistent application rates or your FSA about how to approach this from an Agronomic standpoint.