Old Iron – Turning the old Coulter Machine into a Modern Applicator

December 20, 2018

Turning the old Coulter Machine into a Modern Applicator from Central Valley Ag on Vimeo.

This week we are continuing our theme of talking about splitting up our Nitrogen application. We have covered pre-emergence and planting time, so now we move into the in-season application. I fully understand that in-season application can be tricky. We have to balance the timing and growth stage with the weather, and it seems that the deck is always stacked against us. And to be fair, those were two pretty big reasons (weather and timing) why many people parked their sidedress machine in the tree line 15 years ago. But, they were not the only reasons, and I know there is a way to put that machine back to work for Nitrogen application.

A few years ago, 360 Yield center introduced their Y Drop system. Shortly thereafter, the hardware was modified to fit a toolbar. But why in the world would we not just reuse the toolbar as is? Some new bearings and coulters and we could be back in business. Well, let’s look at the reason to upgrade.

Erosion: For those of you on flat ground, the slot that was made by the coulter was never a problem. But for those of you that farm on any sort of a slope, you have seen it before. You rush to get the Nitrogen on before the rain gets here. Just after you finish, the wind shifts and the rain hits. And the next day you go out to see little finger ditches washed in the field. Did it take our fertilizer with it when it went? Who knows, but it is unsettling. When you use the Y Drop that is eliminated. The product is applied at the base of the plant, and since there isn’t an opportunity to wash, it goes into the soil.

Placement: When we used a coulter machine, we were applying Nitrogen 10-15 inches away from the plant. We understand today that 60% of the Nitrogen a plant uses comes from within 7” of the plant. When it was applied a foot away, you didn’t always get the “pop” you wanted. When Nitrogen is applied in season, it is gratifying to see the corn turn green. When we use the Y Drop, it is applied at the base of the plant when just a few hundredths of rain gets it into the soil where it can be taken into the plant.

Cost: Whether that old Sidedress machine has sat for 2 years or 20, it is going to take some work to get it back into shape. New bearings are a minimum, and in all likelihood, we are looking at new coulters to go with it. Those parts add up to have the same machine you parked before. The cost of those parts go a long way towards paying for the Y Drop system for a Sidedress machine.

Timing: We have talked before about corn using 75% of its Nitrogen after V9. This application will be before that window opens. But, when you compare it to putting those same pounds on before the corn is out of the ground, there are still timing advantages. East of Highway 281 whether you are in Kansas, Nebraska, or Iowa; May and June are our biggest rainfall months, with April being in the top half as well. If avoiding leaching is big concern, then delaying the application of part of those pounds, even if only for six weeks, is a big deal.

Now, I certainly don’t want to make a Y Drop Sidedress out to be perfect. And UAN is always prone to volatilization, but a banded application is not as in danger as a broadcast of Urea. The window for application between V4 and when you can no longer clear corn with the bar is limited, and weather will always make the window smaller.

But, if you want to, or need to split apply your Nitrogen application up, this is an option for those of you that are on Dryland or don’t want to Fertigate. True, a Y Drop system on a high clearance sprayer affords us a bigger application window, but not all of us have a high clearance sprayer or can afford one. Converting an old toolbar to a Y Drop machine is affordable, and could be one of the main pieces in your Nitrogen application plan in 2019.

By Keith Byerly

Posted: 12/20/2018 3:38:32 PM by Kelli Emanuel | with 0 comments