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Row-till and manure in one pass

No-till systems has become even better for farmer


November 13, 2007
By Peter Darbishire

Using no-till systems has become even better for Denfield, Ontario, farmer,
Ron McRae since he started applying row-injected liquid hog manure with a modified
row-tillage implement. He saves on fertilizer, reduces compaction by not spreading
in the spring and reduces the environmental impact of his operations.

Figure 1.
Tillage and application treatment system. All applied
on soybean residue
Plot i/d Plant population per acre Planting date Harvested yield (bu/ac)
Fall ridged, 3000gal fall injected, no spring tillage A 22,000 April 22 142
3500gal spring surface applied, spring cultivated (conventional) B 28,000 May 10 158
3500gal spring surface applied, spring cultivated (conventional) C 31,000 May 10 158
Fall ridged, 3000gal fall injected, no spring tillage,
1800gal spring applied on surface
D 24,000 April 22 132
Fall ridged, 3000gal fall injected, no spring tillage E 24,000 April 22 160
3000gal fall injected, spring cultivated (conventional) F 29,000 May 10 181
Fall ridged, 3000gal fall injected, no spring tillage G 24,000 April 22 167

McRae has modified a row-tillage toolbar originally used to apply dry fertilizer
for University of Guelph trials. With the help of Till-Tech's Ron Prong, he
has mounted the unit behind his 3000 gallon manure tank. It has four rows spaced
at 30 inches. Each row unit comprises a row cleaner from a John Deere planter,
an opening coulter followed by an injection knife and nozzle, and a pair of
discs at the rear to close soil over the manure and form a ridge. The result,
when applied to wheat stubble, is ready-fertilized and pre-tilled rows for the
following year's corn. After applying 3000 gallons per acre of finishing hog
manure, the field is virtually odourless and, when done in dry fall conditions,
the manure is absorbed quickly into the soil.

At his first attempt, McRae mounted the row-cleaner toolbar beneath the front
of the manure tank, however, he soon decided that rear-mounting would be better.
Using McRaeÕs ideas for row markers, row cleaners and ridging, Till-Tech modified
the toolbar to operate at the rear and added a mechanism and sequenced hydraulics
to lift the toolbar for transport clearance. The design now incorporates sequenced
row marker activation and down-pressure adjustment. There is also a gauge mounted
at the front of the spreader to indicate manure gate valve opening.

At planting, McRae uses no P and K in his starter and only 40 units of N for
a savings of 35 to 60 units of N. Using figures current in 2005, McRae estimates
his fertilizer savings are about $20 per acre for N, plus $15 per acre for P
and K. By eliminating two tillage passes in spring (at $16 per acre) and one
in the fall ($15 per acre), he reckons his total savings amount to $66 per acre
over his 100 acres of corn. This should allow a payback on the equipment of
two and a half years.

His results in 2005 are encouraging. He weighed off plots in October of corn
planted after soybeans. One (plot F, Table 1) was fall injected and spring worked
and yielded 181 bushels per acre. "The plots that were fall injected and
not spring worked (plots A, D, E, G) were planted directly on the ridges April
22. These suffered a bit and the population reduction of between 22,000 and
24,000 may have been a function of the cold snow which fell that evening,"
he says.

He notes that another farm planted in April suffered a similar fate despite
being spring tilled. The best of these plots yielded 167 bushels per acre, with
the other replications yielding 160, 142 and 132 bushels per acre. "These
were certainly acceptable yields considering the final plant stand," he
adds. Comparative plots (plots B and C) were spring cultivated with surface
applied manure: both these plots yielded 158 bushels per acre.

"It appears fall injection is the best way to apply manure ingredients
and the big winner was where we spring tilled the rows. Now we have to perfect
the ridging system," he says. At a time when fertilizer and fuel prices
are rising, adapting techniques and equipment that save both are critical for
successful crop management. To do so with additional environmental benefits
is especially satisfying for McRae!