Pressure system relieves worry

Growers explain reasons for switching to N-Shooter

BRANDON — The ability to pump more nitrogen into the soil in a single pass is why many producers are switching to anhydrous ammonia. 


“For sure, the biggest reason we went to NH3 and the N-Shooter was productivity,” said Bryan Thiessen.


“NH3 lets me just about double the product I put down. It’s 82 percent versus 46 percent. That says it all.”


With three N-Shooters on his 15,000 acre farm near Outlook, Sask., Thiessen is no stranger to the system. Both of his Morris drills are equipped. 


He recently sold his Flexi-Coil, which had an N-Shooter, but is currently installing a new system on his new Seed Hawk. He does variable rate with all three drills.


“It seems fairly responsive, but it’s quite dependent on how you calibrate you system, things like the proper on-off times,” he said. 


“As for accuracy, you know, I honestly don’t know if we’re getting better accuracy. I don’t know if it’s that fine of an art with these things, but I can say we’ve had no problem with any of the N-Shooters. Where we’ve had trouble was the Topcon and their monitors, but I think that’s been solved with their latest round of X-30 monitors. We’ve changed everything over to X-30, and it looks like it’s going to work.”


Eliminating frosty lines is another reason producers give when explaining why they spent $30,000 on an N-Shooter system. That’s the case with Ken Vreeling, who farms 9,000 acres near Hawk Hills, Alta.


He has now grown three crops with his first N-Shooter and two crops with his second N-Shooter. Before buying the first unit, Vreeling had always used a single-line free-flowing system with a Continental MVD.


“We wanted to get away from frosty lines and that big mud buildup on the shank,” he said.


“That caused us a lot of grief in wet soils.”


The ball of frozen mud was almost like a football on every opener, he added.


“We needed a pressure system so we could put down anhydrous with the seed instead of in a separate operation. We also wanted sectional control.”


Vreeling installed the systems on his Seed Hawks, with anhydrous going down the middle opener, which is intended for fertilizer. This puts the anhydrous ammonia about an inch below the level of the seed. He has paired row openers, so the seeds are one inch off to each side of the anhydrous ammonia band. He has experienced no seedling damage. 


Vreeling doesn’t do variable rate prescription maps, but he does make manual adjustments on the go in the field. One of the biggest adjustments is cutting back on nitrogen in peaty areas. 


“With manual control, the response is fairly quick, but there is some lag because of the distance. You’re controlling the flow back at the pump, so the response time depends on how much product you have in the line,” he said.


“The response is pretty fast on the little lines running down from the splitter. The change travels through there quickly. But you need some lead time for sure to make changes at the pump.”


Vreeling said he’s well aware of the anhydrous ammonia safety concern that many farmers naturally have, but he doesn’t let it bother him.


“I was an ag retailer with anhydrous for 20 years, an owner-operator. I’m comfortable with anhydrous, but you have to respect it.”


Farmers who use anhydrous ammonia are unanimously cautious about safety. Terry Anderson of Gibbons, Alta., is no different.


“The little lines aren’t a concern, but I keep an eye on those three quarter inch red lines between the manifolds. I’ve had one of those devils blow off,” Anderson said.


“The first time it happens, it catches your attention pretty quickly. It’s concerning. The second time, you’re not as surprised. It’s happened to me twice. Fortunately, there’s always been a definite wind direction. You just reorient yourself and turn the tractor into the wind so you can get to the main valve. The good thing is that there’s a big white cloud when it pops. It’s highly visible because there’s a lot of anhydrous coming out.”


Anderson will be starting his fourth crop with the N-Shooter this month. Before this system, he always used a cold flow system on a cultivator frame. 


However, he bought an air drill three years ago so he could do one pass farming. 


“This high pressure system appealed to me because of its accuracy. Once I got it set up, it’s pretty straight forward. I haven’t been fooled by it yet in three years,” he said. 


“The accuracy of the metering system really is excellent. I run about 90 p.s.i. on the lines going to the opener. With that pressure, the changes are very rapid. I’m not doing variable rate yet, but I can see it’s going to be a good system for that because it’s so responsive. I run three different rates that I switch manually. There is just no hesitation at all when I switch rates.”