Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Rain Revisits

So naturally just as we got started sidedressing yesterday, it would rain today. In fact, by the end of the day we received 0.9 inchees. The picture shows the view out the east doors of our shop. Notice that we are so big and important now that we have our own Liquid truck to bring us fertilizer. I know that rain during sidedress time is one reason that some may be hesitant to rely on sidedress application, preferring instead to apply it all up front with the planter and herbicide application. Or some have too many acres to cover for sidedress to be effective. But I still like sidedress. It puts the nitrogen on at a time when the N demand by the corn starts to shoot straight up. And how many times have there been big rains following broadcast applications, so that you read warnings from Extension service reports: "How much nitrogen is left following recent rains?" However, our research continues to show that broadcast after planting is as effective as timely sidedress. I thought I would show you our sidedress mainifold. We have an "N-Ject LF" system from Capstan Ag on top of some Wilger Flow Indicators with steel balls. The Capstan system is great for us because we are able to apply a range of application rates in our experiments and not have to continually change orifice disks like in the old days. We have used this for several years now, and are very satisfied. The Capstan sends the fertilizer out in pulses that match the desired rates. We use the same system on our planter, again not having to change orifices between the different rates. It is a little spendy, but ensures accurate delivery of the desired rate. Check it out. (Note: I receive no compensation for the mention of this product. But am open for discussion.)
Notice in the picture that one of the lines comes out of the system and then goes to a T with two tubes coming out. Well these tubes go to the guess rows, so that half of the rate is applied in each pass in the guess rows. So with the return pass, a full rate is applied. Many sidedress units are similarly set up, but I have seen units that do not apply in the guess rows, and have seen N shortage as a result. I really like the Wilger units so that you can see if one row becomes clogged or something, and you can stop and fix it before finding out the hard way with yellow corn later.

The last picture is of Phil showing off his latest project: an improved drip tape layer. In some fields we place drip tape for irrigation. In the old days we used to walk the tape the length of the plot by unrolling the tape spools mounted on a rod at the field edge. Then later we mounted the rod on the 3-point hitch of a tractor and drove it up the plots, but we still had to have people standing on the end of the tape at the end of the field. What an inefficient use of labor all of that was! So this year we will try this unit which applies down pressure as the tape is laid to keep it in place. The down pressure is from air shocks on the press wheels. As seen in the picture, it does a nice job on the shop floor. (We will see if Phil is still smiling after we try it in the field.)
It is one of the best parts of the job that we do in that we come up with ways to make field work better and more efficient. In other words, make our job easier so that we can do more. That is certainly a characteristic of the American farmer, and why we are the envy of the world.
So this is what we do on rainy days.