Putting fertilizer in the ground has become the new bottleneck as farms become larger and seeding operations more complex.
As a result, more growers have been forced to buy dedicated applicators.
Drill manufacturers point to their larger air tanks, saying fertilizer capacity is keeping pace with seed capacity on the latest drills.
However, the drill itself is growing wider, the volume of fertilizer per acre is rising and farmers are saying fertilizer capacity on the drill is not adequate.
Most people agree that the capacity of air drills has pretty well maxed out because of weight and compaction factors.
Fall fertilizer application is one answer to the problem.
More precise GPS guidance now allows producers to use their seed drills to put down fertilizer in the fall, confident that they can accurately place seed between those rows come spring.
Time release prills also contribute to more effective fall fertilizer operations, and fall-seeded crops help producers who are willing to go to the extra trouble.
However, it’s still not enough for those facing expensive time delays using a seed drill to do double duty.
“In the spring, a lot of farmers now use a dedicated fertilizer applicator along with their drill at the same time so they can keep the drill moving,” says Brian Perkuhn of Summers Manufacturing.
“Farmers say their big drill just doesn’t have the fertilizer volume they require.”
Summers has just put its new VT Flex Applicator into production at its factory in Devils Lake, North Dakota.
A few will be available for sale this fall. The unit is 60 feet wide, but Summers will custom build to fit a buyer’s needs.
The VT low disturbance knives handle granular, liquid or anhydrous. The machine can handle any combination of two of those three products, depending on the knives a buyer orders.
It can put down 700 pounds per acre at speeds up to eight m.p.h. when doing granular.
Standard equipment for trash management includes two front-mounted coulters for each knife. The operator can adjust the fertilizer knives independently from the coulters. Independent disc levellers behind the knives are adjustable to keep fertilizer in the ground.
“The levelling mechanism is built into the hydraulic system. It’s a double ended cylinder. One end has shim packs. You can walk along and adjust the whole machine in a matter of minutes. You can adjust side-to-side and front-to-back very quickly as field conditions change,” Perkuhn said.
“The coulter depth is stationary, but we can change the spacing to match the rows or go wider if that’s what the grower wants. We can go down to 7.5 inches or any of our regular spacings. And we have five different coulter blade options.”
The VT can be ordered with 15, 20, 22 or 30 inch spacing. It’s not normally built on 12 inch spacing, but Perkuhn said it shouldn’t be a problem to build it that way. It’s compatible with most air carts on the market, he added.
The applicator without air tanks costs US$250,000 to $300,000.
“You can get red paint or green paint.”