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Fertilisers & Spreaders

Power on the Land

Fertilisers and spreaders is the topic for this month’s Power on the Land, brought to you by Mike Williams.

Teagle’s XT series are the only tractor-mounted fertiliser spreaders built in Britain.

Features providing improved application accuracy are high on the priority list of recent fertiliser spreader developments, and features that can help to improve operating efficiency and increase output are also attracting more customers.

A recent development for the Axis range of twin disc spreaders from Kuhn is the Axmat Plus control system using radar technology to achieve improved distribution accuracy. The Axmat equipment, available on the flagship 50.2 EMC+W model, uses 54 radar sensors to scan the spread pattern as the fertiliser leaves the spinning discs. There are 27 sensors arranged in a horseshoe pattern under each of the discs, and the data they collect is assessed by ‘intelligent’ software that can make adjustments at four-second intervals to alter the drop point onto each spinning disc to maintain the optimum spread pattern. Adjustments can compensate for variations caused by external factors and also due to changes in the quality and consistency of the fertiliser, and using the Axmat control also avoids the need to make physical checks on the spread pattern.

The Kuhn Axis range covers four tractor-mounted spreader series, all with the Kuhn CDA metering system and with hopper capacities starting at 1,000 litres and extending to 4,200 litres using a hopper extension. Weigh cells to check the hopper contents are available on all the series and Isobus compatibility is offered on the larger models. Trailed spreaders are also available from Kuhn, including the Axent 100.1 model with 9,400-litres hopper capacity and using twin-disc spreading to provide up to 50m distribution width. Axent spreaders also provide variable application rate and section control technology, and they can be adapted for spreading lime.

The new arrivals in the tractor-mounted L series spreaders distributed by Keith Rennie Machinery are the L15 and L20 Trend models to be shown at this year’s Lamma event. The L series are smaller capacity models in the Trend range with hopper capacities from 700–1,300 litres for the L15 increasing to 2,050 litres maximum for the L20. They are based on the previous L1 and L2 models, but the new updated versions are upgraded to allow easier maintenance and simplified cleaning. The improvements include a water jetting point to help clean fertiliser traces from the hard-to-reach areas, and the larger M series spreaders from KRM have already been given a similar maintenance update. For the new L series models the updates should encourage improved maintenance, with reduced cleaning time while extending the spreaders’ working life. Both L series spreaders feature a three-year gearbox warranty and the L20 model can be supplied with weigh cells fitted.

Maximum spreading width for the new Trend spreaders is 18m for the L15, increasing to 24m for the L20, but this goes up to 42m for the M series Trend models which are all available with weigh cells. The hopper size for the flagship M60W Trend model is 5,500 litres, said to be the biggest capacity mounted spreader available. Other features available on the larger machines include GPS capability and variable rate spreading.

The Amazone company filed their first fertiliser spreader patent in 1915, and since then they have been one of the leading manufacturers with a current range that includes both tractor-mounted and trailed machines. Recent developments include introducing the WindControl feature that checks the wind speed and direction and automatically adjusts the spread pattern to compensate. WindControl is an option on Amazone’s ZG-TS ProfisPro trailed spreader that was introduced last year with a choice of 7,500- or 10,000-litre hopper capacity. The special features include an ‘intelligent’ weighing system that provides online and on-the-move calibration, using data from four weigh cells plus a built-in tilt sensor, and offering the capability to make an instant response to variations in the fertiliser characteristics or changes in the weather conditions.

Developments from Amazone this year include the HeadlandControl software introduced on ZA-TS series spreaders, allowing the switching-on and off positions to be adjusted to increase or reduce the overlap for improved accuracy during headland turns. Also new this year is the ZA-V Profis Control spreader, an entry-level model with capacities ranging from 1,400–4,200 litres. It has a maximum spreading width of 36m and weigh cells are included on the equipment list. The ZA-V series plus the ZA-TS and ZG-TS spreaders are available under a special offer programme that includes a free set of Easy Check mats used to make a simple on-farm assessment of the spread pattern. The mats are available with new spreaders bought before the end of January 2020.   

A free set of mats for checking spreading accuracy is available
with some Amazone spreaders bought before the end of January.

Teagle Machinery offers customers a choice of spreader ranges including the Centerliner series that features the five recently introduced SXi and SXe models with hopper capacities ranging from 1,580–3,650 litres and up to 24m spreading width. A special feature on the SXi and SXe spreaders is the Easytronic system, offering increased spreading accuracy with a touch-screen control unit to provide a list of functions that include forward speed monitoring with the data used to maintain the required spread rate. GPS compatibility allows mapping to be used, there is a control option for spreading beside field borders and the SXi models are equipped with weigh cells. All the Centerliners, including standard SE series models, have spreading components made of stainless steel and the options list includes an agitator to reduce blockage risks when spreading grass seed. 

The XT series spreaders are made at the Teagle factory in Cornwall and are now the only tractor-mounted fertiliser spreaders built in the UK. The three models are designed for small to medium acreages, with hopper sizes from 660 for the XT20 model with a single spreading disc, while the twin-disc XT24 and XT48 models hold 675 and 1,350 litres and have a 12m spreading width. XT features include a main frame that is shot-blasted and powder coated for a longer life, the plastic hoppers are corrosion resistant and the bolt-on design allows easy removal for cleaning and non-wearing parts are covered by a three-year warranty.

Managing late drilled wheat crops

Yara’s head of agronomy, Mark Tucker explains that, where drilling of winter wheat has been delayed, the crop nutrition strategy should be adapted to help recover the lost yield potential. With delayed drilling comes two issues. Firstly the soil state as a growth medium is much poorer. Secondly, more than four weeks of the growth period has been lost. The latter is crucial, as the fundamental for yield attainment is crop biomass.

One of the key paths to achieving high biomass crops is the management of the early stage of crop development. A Yara crop nutrition strategy can be used as a remedy, helping to recover some of the lost yield potential. Such a strategy requires a combination of actions to increase early spring growth rates, involving fertiliser and foliar applied nutrients. When the soils start to warm up, and reach 5ºC crops will begin to grow again – however, nutrients will be at their lowest availability, especially in the rooting zone. The first spring management action is to apply an appropriate fertiliser (late February) to meet this nutrient demand.

The phosphate source is particularly important and needs to be one that is not immediately ‘locked up’ (TSP, MAP, DAP based fertilisers), and gives continuous supply, for example YaraMila with P-Extend. Coincide this with a foliar phosphate such as YaraVita Magphos K to accelerate the early spring growth.

The second spring management action should be to apply a higher nitrogen rate at this first timing. Higher nitrogen rates give faster leaf and tiller development to recover the biomass lost. A uniform NPKS compound can be selected, and the foliar application can made in a tank mix with other crop protection applications.

Explore the benefits of liquid fertiliser

In recent years the popularity of liquid fertilisers has soared, with more and more farmers turning to the liquid alternative. Omex offers a full range of liquid fertilisers – Suspension, Solution and Foliar. The company says its liquid range boasts a variety of benefits, for example liquid fertilisers are fast acting, meaning the crop is immediately able to absorb the nutrients it needs which, in turn, gives an improved crop response. Unlike granular application, liquids can be applied evenly and accurately across the crop, right up to the field edge, making it completely uniform and allowing for accurate controlled application. There is also no heavy bag handling or bag disposal, and thanks to Omex SAP and soil testing services you can ensure the crop receives exactly what it needs. The Omex team is equipped with Facts-qualified agronomists, highly skilled trials officers and expertly trained lab technicians; you can supply the full season’s nitrogen in one simple pass. Omex offers a full range of services to help support the grower in achieving maximum yield potential

Order fertilisers early in case of high demand

Prolonged heavy rainfall across the UK has posed serious challenges for farmers this autumn, making drilling winter cereals impossible for many and hindering the lifting of root crops. Openfield’s fertiliser manager Lucy Hassall said
this could also create problems when it comes to fertiliser.

Speaking at the end of November, Lucy said recent weather conditions are one of the biggest focus areas for Openfield at the moment, as growers are struggling to get crops in the ground due to the high volume of rainfall.

“Conditions have been really challenging for growers and many are still in the position of not knowing what area they will get drilled and what their final cropping will be,” she explained. “This makes it very difficult for farmers to calculate their fertiliser requirements for the coming season, which could lead to purchasing being left until well into the new year, creating logistical problems in terms of getting product out to farms on time.”

She continued: “Of the crops that have been established, they are now sitting in very wet or waterlogged soils which will impact on both soil structure and the root development of crops, making it vital that growers pay particular attention to their nutrition programmes. This should start with testing soils for available nutrients – both macro and micro nutrients – with a broad-spectrum soil test.

“Nitrogen programmes will be particularly important to get right this coming season if crops are to reach their yield potential. This should start with an N-Min soil test to establish the amount of N in the soil which will become available to the crop. We had relatively high yield at harvest which will have removed high amounts of nitrogen and that has been followed by extremely high autumn rainfall, meaning N soil levels could be lower than average.”

Lucy advised growers to purchase their fertiliser requirements and have them in the shed as soon as the crop is in the ground, not only to have product ready for when it is required but to also avoid any potential price increases that could arise, should we have a high demand in the spring

Matching the needs of crops

As part of ICL’s vision for a more sustainable way of farming, controlled release fertilisers (CRFs) can improve efficiency, economy and ecology. Agromaster and Agrocote employ ICL’s patented E-Max technology. Nutrients are released in a more precise manner, helping to match crops’ needs while limiting nitrate leaching.

ICL’s technical sales manager Dr Richard Collins says: “Trials have shown CRFs can significantly increase the efficiency of nutrient use, and as a result improve crop yield and quality in specific climate and soil conditions around the world. E-Max technology enables a very thin coating to be added to a urea fertiliser granule to keep the nutrient level very high, while assuring a very good release curve during the crop growing season. In the case of Agromaster, typically 30-40 per cent (but can be higher – 60 per cent) of the N is coated and released over a two- to three-month period − depending on longevity of the product selected − even if rainfall is high, without leaching away from the root zone. The release is controlled by temperature only.
The remaining N is uncoated, promoting early development. Agrocote is ICL’s fully coated, controlled release urea product.

“Agromaster and Agrocote offer tremendous benefits for growers,” continues Dr Collins. “In specific growing conditions, such as sandy and loamy soils and regions where there is substantial rainfall during the growing season, nutrient use efficiency is obviously higher. These two ICL product ranges can significantly improve yielding and crop quality while potentially reducing fertiliser applications.

New £5m liquid fertiliser terminal for East Anglia

Brineflow has developed quayside storage and a new manufacturing terminal for its Nitrasol UAN fertilisers, which has been built to the most stringent environmental standards whilst being capable of dispatching over 2,000t/day in the peak spring season.

Managing director Ian Ferris says: “The move to liquid nitrogen is accelerating. We can deliver liquid direct to tanks strategically located around the farm and on outlying holdings to make the task of storage and application straightforward. Unlike solid granules, liquids can be applied in all weathers and there are agronomic benefits which makes the nitrogen available to the plant for longer, especially in a dry spring.

“Our Nitrasol system is the only one where the liquid nitrogen is exposed to the atmosphere for the first time at the point of application to the crop. As ammonia emissions face statutory control and taxes on plastic bags are mooted, we have taken the liquid fertiliser industry forward by addressing the ultimate concerns
of the consumers who purchase farm-gate products.

To encourage a move to the liquid system, Brineflow offers a number of tank rental options or can advise on the environmentally-compliant installation of new tanks on the farm. Brineflow encourages visitors to the new terminal to demonstrate and discuss how the company can help farms become more productive and profitable whilst demonstrating environmental and social responsibility to those who need to be persuaded that modern agriculture is a force for good

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