Managing in-furrow sowing without the “snake oil”

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  • August 11, 2017

Nutrian Liquid fertiliser have been doing trial work, working with Primaries Midland.

Nutrian Liquid Fertilisers researchers Andy Webster and assistant Cassisy Chambers, Primaries CRT Midland, took part in a trial to assess liquid and granular nutrients and ameliorants.
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Article published in Farm Weekly on 20 July 2017 by Ken Wilson-
Managing in-furrow sowing without the “snake oil”

There’s snake oil and then there’s snake oil… well, science. The serious question is who you will believe, because snake oil still persists as advocates promise better crops, and money is being made about the benefits of a lot of dubious ‘oils’.

And that’s the general gist of what Gnonwangerup agronomist Tom McIneraey is involved in with regard to liquid nutrients. Tom, who works for Primaries CRT, is a University of Adelaide Roseworthy College graduate and he has been assessing the role of liquid nutrient mixes along with granular products to determine the benefits of in-furrow applications. Since the introduction of Flexi-N more than 17 years ago, there has been plenty of determined farmers experimenting with doing everything in one pass with liquid mixes- nitrogen, phosphorous calcium, potassium, fungicides trace elements and wetters. The idea was to put an end to bulky granular products that arguably were more inefficient in becoming plant available (slower to break down) than liquid products. It was an interesting proposition which didn’t get many legs, so to speak, mainly because not enough was known by farmers about the chemistry of the mixes nor pumping and delivery systems to keep the liquid in suspension.

Blockages were a common and annoying occurrence with early attempts, which poured cold water on any hopes of major adoption as a management practice by farmers. But all that is changing and Tom’s trial work since 2013 is ‘growing legs’.

Having the right equipment is a start and he is grateful that WA manufacturer Ausplow wanted to back his efforts by supplying a DBS/Multistream trial seeding rug. He added Friction Flow hoses to deliver his mixes from the tank to the DBS modules, and has experimented with several delivery points at the knife point, seeding boot and at the rear of the press wheel.

Trials, which are replicated, include in-furrow fungicides, liquid limes and gypsum, liquid calcium, trace elements and liquid NPK. Early work saw blockage issues with the calcium, lime and gypsum mixes, because of insufficient agitation in the tank to keep products in suspension.

That has been overcome and the Friction Flow liquid system has worked a treat. Included in the trial are comparisons between liquid and granular products and combination of both.

“We are testing a range of nutrients, ameliorants and in-furrow fungicides in liquid form.” Tom said. “That’s along with wetting agents, to assess how they can assist in improving crop establishment and activating herbicides, by maintaining more moisture in dries conditions.”

“We also want to identify benefits of in-furrow treatments un a dry year when moisture is lacking and therefore plant uptake of nutrients is slower. It will be interesting to see if liquids can trigger a quicker response and potentially provide greater early plant vigour and crop establishment in dry conditions. There is potentially a compromise between liquid and granular and we’ll be looking at that too. We’re basically not pushing any particular product or method but rather trying think outside the square as to what might be more beneficial to plant establishment and growth. There is a lot of spin out there in the ag market place at the minute with little or no scientific backing or replicated trial work behind them, being pushed on farmers. I’m really keen to throw these products in my trials in conjunction with current best practice as well as some new technologies to see where we are getting the best bang for our buck and help my clients make better decisions for their business.”

“It’s a complex scenario but there are some positive signs to indicate that we might be able to tweak a few one and two per centers rather than trying to totally reinvent the wheel. I would characterise what we’re doing as identifying another tool for the toolbox in crop establishment systems. It’s all about looking for options to maximise profits.”

The Ausplow trial seeder compromises a nine tine 2.7m (9ft) DBS on 30cm (12in) spacings with a three tank Multistream, with the separate pumps and three delivery lines. Down the track variable rate applications may be introduced. The big picture is that technology is now being better integrated with agronomy so it is not too ‘out there’ to suggest a one-pass crop establishment system, probably employing controlled traffic and edge-row sowing.

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