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Fluid Journal : Fluid Journal 1993-1995
We broadcast another 50 pounds of nitrogen (18 gallons of 28-0-0) and five gallons of liquid ammonium thiosulfate plus a herbicide right behind the planter. We use nitrogen and sulfur to help residue decay. FJ: How much liquid starter are you applying? About five gallons per acre and getting good results. Our soils test high in P and K. For years, we used starter and then banded additional P and K. We probably never used more than 40 pounds of phosphorus per acre. Those soils have gone from hardly registering for P and K to medium or high-test levels. FJ: Is maintenance a problem with your spoke wheels? We stay on top of it, so we don't have problems. We'll cover about 600 acres a year before we put new seals and spacers in the wheels and rework the spokes. FJ: What about timing of applications? Here's what we do. We've got our machine fixed up with a guidance system. We guide off the ridges preplant so we're putting fertilizer in the ridge where we want it. We quit when planting time comes and plant corn. Then we start fertilizing again, using our guidance system but placing it a little closer to the row. We clean a 10-inch strip off the top of the ridge when we plant so when we come back later with fertilizer we place it through the spoke wheel right on the edge of the clean strip. The timing and efficiency are ideal. We call them super ridges. FJ: Do you put sulfur and zinc in the ridge? We apply about 30 gallons of nitrogen, mixed with about three gallons of thiosulfate. FJ: Over the years, have you changed any practices concerning your ridges? No. Same ridges. Same place. FJ: Do you chop your stalks in the spring? No, we made a rig with two rows of truck tires bolted together. We drag the tires through the fields in the wintertime when everything is frozen. The stalks shatter like glass. The tires stay on top of the ridges. It doesn't take a lot of power. FJ: What is your weed control program? We broadcast a grass herbicide at planting time with 28 percent and sulfur. We spray it on the soil, right behind the planter. With the nitrogen and good moisture in the soil, we've cut the rate of herbicide applied in half! For years we used Atrazine and oil. Now we're using Bucktril and Banvel, trying to get away from using so much Atrazine. FJ: How would you advise a newcomer to conservation tillage? Use starter and band your herbicides. Most ridge tillers have gone to banding herbicides with nitrogen and they use a starter fertilizer. If you band your herbicide, you may have to cultivate twice. So, you're out there cultivating fairly early the first time. You apply the balance of the nitrogen then. That works nicely for an average farmer, but these big operators, of course, would have to do something different. FJ: Some producers are broadcasting. What would you advise? Should've quit that 20 years ago! They should figure out a way to inject nutrients below the residue. It presents a problem, because most people wanting to fertilize no-till are not even out there with a cultivator. Which leads back to the ridge-till system. It's better management wise. The long-term effects are just like the experimental farm in Waseca, Minnesota. Gyles Randall has a study where he's worked with four tillage systems for 16 years ridge-till, no-till, conventional-till and chisel planting. Ridge-till has proven far and away better for weed control, fertilizer efficiency and water efficiency. FJ: Could you apply more starter at planting? Using a total liquid program, you can add some P and K with your nitrogen at sidedressing time. That's what we've done for years to apply more P and K. We limit our starter rate. FJ: Is the art of management where it should be? You have trouble convincing people that they shouldn't go out there and spread it as fast as they can --- 200 acres a day. The problem is farming vast amounts of acres. To me, many operators could make a whole lot more money by backing up and downsizing their operations --- do it more efficiently. Place the fertilizer where it should be. You can improve your management to a point where you can make so much more money on less acres. It's hard to convince some big operators because acres are all they see. FJ: How do you respond to the guy who says, "Before you switch to no-till or ridge-till, you should build your P and K levels"? You can go out there with small amounts of fertilizer and do great things if you apply it right and time it right. FJ: What other excuses do you hear for not switching? One of the big fallacies we run up against is that ridge-till produces more disease, insect and weed problems. That's not true. If anything, ridge-till has less of these problems. We usually don't have to cultivate for weed control. As far as I'm concerned, there are no excuses. 2 Fluid Journal Late Spring 1993
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