Soil Management

Integrating Advanced Technology Into Modern Fertilizer Equipment

eKonomics News Team

Share This:

Valuable data generated by precision agriculture technology is now being incorporated into a wealth of new fertilizer equipment, helping farmers increase their return on investment while being environmentally responsible with crop nutrients.

Collection and usage of precise fertilizer placement and record-keeping data have spurred two of the latest advancements in fertilizer equipment.

Fertilizer Placement Technology

Border spreading is a dry fertilizer application technology that Ohio State University agriculture engineer John Fulton expects to be offered by United States spreader manufacturers soon. In fact, some spreaders in Europe have utilized this technology for several years. Fulton further predicts that the adoption of variable-rate fertilizer technology will continue to trend upward as a result of lower commodity prices and environmental pressures.

With profitability and environmental responsibility in mind, this in-the-cab technology gives the operator the option to adjust application rates by controlling the amount of fertilizer applied to field edges near water sources. For phosphorus, precision subsurface placement technology allows applicators to place the nutrient where the plant will use it, thereby reducing the chances of runoff.

Other developments in fertilizer application technology include:

  • Pulse-width modulation systems. This allows for a highly precise placement of starter fertilizer into the furrow during planting. Planter attachments using this pop-up technology can place liquid fertilizer ahead of, on top of or behind the seed.
  • Residue management system combined with fertilizer application. This precision applicator can apply dry, liquid or ammonia fertilizer at high speeds while placement adjustments can be set for different row spacing (15-, 20-, 22- or 30-inch) as well as for applications at various placement depths.

Mark Hanna, Iowa State University Extension agricultural engineer, notes the emergence of more adaptable fertilizer equipment as another key trend to watch. This equipment has been designed for easy transition between nutrient applications for pre-plant, planting and post-plant phases.

“Because of this, variable fertilizer application is currently more common than variable-rate planting,” Hanna says. “We are seeing changes in nutrient management practices that are prompting [fertilizer] equipment development.”

More opportunities to advance variable-rate fertilizer technologies exist, and new developments in the science behind perfecting rate, time, placement, and source of crop nutrients are ongoing. The desire to know more about interactions taking place beneath the soil’s surface is constantly revealing new understandings. “It is easier to make the fertilizer equipment than it is to determine how to arrive at the correct rate,” according to Hanna.

Fertilizer Information and Record Keeping

Fulton and Hanna both agree that the information being generated from fertilizer application technology is another important area driving the advances in application equipment.

An increasing amount of application equipment is capable of providing the operator in the cab with real-time information about the rate of nutrients that are being applied, allowing the operator to constantly monitor for proper application. Before, a row or section could have an issue–such as a plugged nozzle or stuck valve–without the operator knowing it.

Coupled with display and recording equipment in the cab, information about the application is recorded for the operator. Recorded information such as this allows a farmer to later use multiple field maps simultaneously to make more informed agronomic decisions.

Overall, these technological advancements that are being made in fertilizer equipment will help farmers with right rate, placement, source, timing and record keeping. In addition to these technologies, PotashCorp’s eKonomics Nutrient ROI Calculator 2.0 can be used to allow the grower or retail agronomist to check their work to help ensure the best return on investment from their applied crop nutrients.