Since I’ve been at Stutsmans (2014), I’ve learned one thing about spring; each one seems more hectic than the last. It all happens so fast; tillage, NH3, weed and feed, planting, and spraying again. Not to mention the weather seems to be more volatile with each passing year. To help reduce the chaos, it seems only natural to spread the workload out. One way to combat this is to move your anhydrous applications to fall with the use of a nitrogen stabilizer.
Fall nitrogen application might seem risky to you. After all, nitrification and nitrogen loss are very real issues that our industry is facing. However, nitrogen stabilizers, like N-Serve or NutriSphere, minimize these risks so your investment is protected until the crop needs it. Although I’m not a certified agronomist, I have noticed the increase in growers using nitrogen stabilizers. This combined with the number of studies backing stabilizers’ effectiveness, convinces me they are making a difference.
Even on the equipment side of the business, we’ve seen a shift towards products that improve time management. Both growers and custom applicators alike, are investing in equipment that spread the workload out as well as simplify operations. Injection, on NH3 toolbars especially, have been growing in popularity not only with time management in mind but also as a built-in preventative maintenance plan.
Although great at keeping your investment where it needs to be, nitrogen stabilizers are very hard on equipment. All nitrogen stabilizers speed up the rusting process of the toolbar. I have yet to find anyone that enjoys dealing with plugged coolers, sticky valves, plugged strainer screens and inconsistent flow meters. These issues (almost always) can be traced back to rust. Without injection, your only option for nitrogen stabilizers is to have them mixed in the tank. That means the product goes through almost every expensive part of the applicator before it hits the soil. This includes the breakaways, pressure hoses, cooler, flow meter, expensive valves, etc. With an injection system, the nitrogen stabilizer only goes through the row hoses and splitters.
Injection systems have extremely accurate pumps that use information from your monitor to inject concentrated product into the main product/solution you are applying. For example, N-Serve into NH3. These systems are fixed displacement pumps. This means for every revolution, a certain amount of liquid is pushed out of the pump. Once the pump is calibrated correctly, the monitor uses speed and flow meter information to calculate the target volume per minute. The pump is then sped up and slowed down accordingly.
On top of saving time, injection systems are very versatile in pumping nearly any liquid and can be used in multiple situations. You can use the same pump on a NH3 toolbar for nitrogen stabilizers, a sprayer for glyphosate, or a planter for micronutrients or liquid insecticide. This versatility helps keep the injection system affordable. Plus, injection systems can be run with nearly any monitor on the market; from a Raven 440 to the OEM displays in newer tractors.
Big picture, many of the current issues that the industry faces today tie back to injection systems.
- With increasing public focus on nitrate levels brought on by the Des Moines Water Works Lawsuit, nitrogen stabilizers may one day become mandatory for all fall nitrogen applications.
- The increasing demand for Dicamba products may lead applicators to be extremely careful with machine contamination.
- As micronutrients and liquid fertilizer-ready insecticides gain popularity on planters, we must find safer ways to handle the product.
Moral of the Story
Injection systems may become an equipment necessity sooner than we are imagining.