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Flying on the N

  • 01

    Much of south-central Iowa has been deluged with rain again in June, just like last year. Some areas received nearly 15 inches of rain in two weeks. That has kept many farmers from sidedressing nitrogen as planned and has many others worried about how much nitrogen has been lost from fields they hadn’t planned to sidedress but which may now be short of nitrogen.

  • 02

    AGRI-TECH Aviation of Indianola, Iowa, has been flying dry urea nitrogen (46-0-0) on cornfields the past several days with this plane and two others.

  • 03

    AGRI-TECH uses these two Air Tractors along with a smaller Cessna Ag Wagon. The Air Tractor 502 on the right holds 2,900 pounds and the Air Tractor 402 on the left holds 2,300 pounds. It costs about $15 per acre to have AGRI-TECH apply 90 pounds of dry urea when fields are within a few miles of an airport.

  • 04

    A spreader underneath each plane distributes the dry urea in swaths about 70 feet wide. Those spreaders will be removed and booms re-installed when the firm starts applying fungicides in July. GPS guidance keeps the planes on course.

  • 05

    It takes a lot of support equipment and personnel to keep the planes in the air. Two Rivers Cooperative was supplying fertilizer to the planes at the Pella airport the day these photos were taken. Agrotain was applied to the dry fertilizer at their plant and hauled to this fertilizer tender in trucks. From the tender, the fertilizer was transferred to boxes. The boxes are weighed on scales on the flatbed trailer.

  • 06

    Wes Sharp of AGRI-TECH uses a telehandler to position a box of fertilizer above the plane’s cargo hopper.

  • 07

    Wes’ father Terry owns the firm along with his wife, Debbie. Wes and his brother Jay are the third generation in the business, which was started in 1947 with the help of their grandfather, Weston Sharp.

  • 08

    Two AGRI-TECH employees control the flow of urea into the cargo hopper.

Iowa farmers are using a method not too common for their area to get N applied this summer.

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