Making Your Planter a Nitrogen Application System

December 14, 2018

Making Your Planter a Nitrogen Application System from Central Valley Ag on Vimeo.

Last week we talked about some of the reasons why we need to be focused and purposeful about when we apply our Nitrogen to meet regulations, as well as some of the yield reasons that go along with that. So, over the next few weeks, I want to begin the process of talking through some of the options we have at our disposal if we are going to apply Nitrogen multiple times throughout the season. This week, we are going to start at the beginning, with our planter.

Now, before anyone gets on my case about saying that the planter is the beginning, let me stop you. I know that many of you have Nitrogen applied to your field before the planter goes through. That pre-emergence application of Nitrogen is what it is. You may be using anhydrous ammonia or a weed and feed application of UAN early in the year. For the sake of simplicity though, I am going to leave those out of my discussion. As long as you are using a Nitrogen inhibitor on those applications, they are fine.

So back to the planter. Over the years we have seen things swing from one end of the spectrum to the other. Twenty years ago, a 15 to 20-gallon application of starter wasn’t out of the question. Most of you still had boxes on your planter, and your planter size was 12-16 rows. So if you had 1.5-bushel boxes and put on 15 gallons per acre, you needed to haul 1,000 gallons of starter to minimize stops. With central fill and bigger planters, that was no longer an option. 15 gpa on a central fill meant we needed to fill with 1,000 gallons of starter more than three times before we are out of seed. So the tanks came off of the tractor, and we swung down to 5 gallons per acre and sped up the planting job.

Now, when we were putting on starter in a two by two band there was also a lot of iron on the planter. That meant more bearings and more horsepower. We certainly wouldn’t want to go back to that those days, as these big planters already take enough horsepower to go through the field. But at the same time, as we talk about applying Nitrogen with our planter, we don’t want to just stream it onto the ground and risk loss via volatilization.

Some of the latest planter attachments have been focusing on how we can apply Nitrogen below the surface, safely away from seed, so we don’t risk damaging germination, without adding a lot of weight or moving parts. Today, two of the more promising systems I see on the market are Conceal from Precision Planting and Bandit from 360 Yield Center. These products are similar, but very different. In the case of Conceal, we are replacing the gauge wheel with a new gauge wheel that is split. That split allows us to run a knife that applies the Nitrogen in the ground and then is closed by the closing wheels. In the case of Bandit, we remove the closing wheel assembly off of the row unit, install a unit that has two opening discs, and a unit that applies Nitrogen in two furrows parallel to the seed furrow. Then the closing wheel assembly is installed behind the bandit and closes all three furrows.

In all cases, we have a safe way to apply a banded, below surface application of Nitrogen, without adding a lot of drag to the planter and increasing horsepower needs. Of course, this is going to take saddle tanks or something similar to feed it. But, as we look at how we split our applications, this may be an inconvenience we need to address.

The take home for today is that adding a Nitrogen application at planting time may not be as inconvenient as it can sound on the surface. Thirty-five pounds of Nitrogen applied next to the seed like this is also a great way to get young plants off to a strong start. Adding Nitrogen to your planter isn’t for everyone, but I hope you can see how good of a fit it can be for some.

By Keith Byerly

Posted: 12/14/2018 12:26:47 PM by Kelli Reznicek | with 0 comments