Nutrient Stewardship to Meet the Needs of Your Farm, Comply with Regulations

Farmers are up to the challenge for better nutrient management.

Nutrient management is being pushed to the forefront of farming as science and government are making direct links between fertilizer/manure application and urban water quality. Farmers’ tendency to land stewardship and their progressive nature is allowing the agricultural industry to face these nutrient management challenges with a multitude of solutions.

The Chesapeake Bay region is one of the most famous modern examples of government setting restrictions on farmer’s nutrient application practices. However, stories like that of Toledo, Ohio’s drinking water shut downs or the Des Moines Iowa Water Works suing 10 area watersheds over the city’s drinking water quality point out that the problem is a national one affecting water quality wherever there is farming in America.

Jurisdictions across America are looking for solutions on how to minimize the effect agriculture has on water quality. In July 2015 Ohio’s Western Lake Erie Basin district started placing tighter restrictions on fertilizer and manure application practices. These restrictions are granted exemption if the nutrients are either injected into the ground, incorporated into the soil within 24 hours of application or if the nutrients are applied onto a growing crop.

Two Solutions for Every Regulation

It seems that for every regulation the agricultural industry is offering a multitude of solutions. Variable rate fertilizer application is becoming one of the most widely adopted options to cut down on application rates and avoid run off from over application. Precision control systems are becoming more common on farms today and the primary reason for switching to variable rate application is the potential cost savings from cutting application rates. Application equipment that is ISOBUS compatible allows one terminal move between the tractors and control various implements. Although ISOBUS isn’t fool proof compatibility, depending on firmware versions and terminal “unlocks,” the fact remains that using one control terminal across multiple implements is the best way to maximize the farm’s investment in precision controls.

In season fertilizer application meets several best management practices put forward today and it fits in with the nutrient management plan of most farms already. Farmers are applying manure over established crops to hold the nutrients for the rest of the season or spoon feeding crops with commercial fertilizer through the season to reduce application rates and costs. At the same time, they are maximizing the effect of the fertilizer by applying when the plant can best use the nutrients.

Salford’s BBI Javelin spinner spreader represents a step forward for in-season granular urea application by offering an industry leading 120-foot spread pattern and the option for left/right section control to help eliminate over applying fertilizer or spreading into sensitive areas such as buffer strips or waterways.

Salford’s Valmar 8600 Airflo air boom applicators broadcast up to 66 feet wide and have maximum accuracy in windy conditions or over rolling terrain. The 8600 has multiple boom sizes with spacing and drop tube options to apply dry fertilizer between the rows of standing crops. Like the Javelin, the 8600 can be equipped with section control to automatically turn on and off the left or right side air boom for the most economical and ecological application possible. Both the Javelin and the 8600 can be ordered ISOBUS compatible.

Side dress operations and strip-till are other methods of focusing fertilizer below the ground and possibly into standing commercial crops. Salford’s PathFinder is a self-steering fertilizer delivery cart that uses proven Valmar Airflo technology to gently, accurately, meter seed or fertilizer. The new PathFinder ST-10 has a 10-ton capacity with 60/40 split and it’s able to vary fertilizer application rate as well as turn on and off up to 4 sections for maximum application accuracy.

One of the hottest topics in nutrient management today is cover crops. In order for farmers to take interest in cover crops they have to fit in the commercial operation of the farm. That may mean that ground cover is regulated in highly erodible soil, subsidies make the crop a profit center for the farm or the value of the cover crop as feed and/or green manure is justifiable to the operation. Regardless of the specific reason farmers are choosing to put down cover crops, the fact remains that it’s a crop that requires time, equipment and management on the farm.

The most common way to get cover crops on is with existing seed drills. However, when time is of the essence seeders that attach to high speed tillage machines are becoming a more popular option. Equipment like Salford’s Valmar 55 Series seeders not only meter accurately at any speed, compared to electric drive options available today, they also can be made to fit with virtually any brand of tillage implement.

Salford’s Independent Series vertical tillage machines and Salford’s latest acquisition, the AerWay Advanced Aeration product line, are widely accepted for low disturbance manure incorporation and can be paired with the Valmar cover crop seeders to get more done with each pass. Salford’s Valmar three-point or tow-behind cover crop seeders fit with existing tillage equipment.