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Split NH3 decision

08/30/2011 @ 2:14pm

Normally, Randy and Doug Litterly put all of their nitrogen on in the fall as anhydrous ammonia (NH₃) in conjunction with tilling the strips they will plant corn into the following spring. But 2009 wasn't a normal year, and the Litterlys, who farm near Elkhart, Illinois, weren't able to make strips or apply nitrogen that fall.

Plan B was to make strips ahead of planting in the spring of 2010. But there was a catch. “We didn't want to put all of our ammonia down in that strip because it might have burned the roots,” says Randy.

“I have never burned roots applying NH₃ in the spring, but normally a guy will have three weeks or a month before planting and get a few good rains,” Randy says. He and Doug wanted to be able to turn around and plant right away.

Their solution was to apply part of the nitrogen in the strip, just like they would if they were doing strip-tillage in the fall. Then they put the rest of the nitrogen in every other row middle.

“It's like a split application,” Randy says. “But it was split at the same time. Instead of coming back and sidedressing later, we just did it all in one pass.”

The Litterlys run two 12-row, 36-inch strip-till machines and two 12-row, 36-inch planters. They have RTK guidance systems for the tractors that pull them.

Each of the Progressive strip-till machines has 12 mole knives to build the mounds and inject the NH₃. The Litterlys put 50 pounds of actual nitrogen in the strips.

An additional 100 pounds per acre of NH₃ was applied through six Yetter low-disturbance openers (Magnum 2987)positioned 72 inches apart in every other row middle. Because the Yetter openers were feeding two rows, however, a relatively high rate of 200 pounds per acre was being applied through each opener. Randy says the units sealed well. “They didn't smoke. And we were putting a big rate down because we went every other row.”

Randy and Doug were able to vary the rate between the strips and the row middles because they were using an aNH₃ Equaply system. (In addition to farming, Randy and Doug are two of the three owners of the company that makes the Equaply system.) That system keeps NH₃ in the liquid form until it reaches orifices on the outlets of the manifolds. By using different sizes of orifices, they can vary the rate among the outlets leading to the openers.

The Equaply system was developed a few years ago to ensure equal application across all outlets by keeping NH₃ as a liquid until it reaches the manifold and then distributing it through equal-size orifices. But in this case, Randy and Doug wanted to vary the rate, so they used different-size orifices.

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