News / Events

Farmer takes small steps in liquid mix (Farm Weekly Article)

18 April 2016

Farm Weekly – 14 April 2016 (Pages 10 – 11)

Farmer takes small steps in liquid mix

By Ken Wilson

Nanson farmer Justin Stokes at his "work station". He believes there is still a lot of research needed into liquids, particularly on the variability of chemicals and compatibilities with trace elements in mixes.

The bank of orifice plates across the width of his Morris Contour 2 bar is an easier way for Justin to service the fittings and check for blockages.

Jason employs a flat-top truck, mounted with a 10,000L tank for liquid nitrogen and 2000L tank for water with traces and fungicides pumped from shuttles. Grain and granular products are augered into the air seeder via a 9.1m (30ft) Norrish 50:50 split bin and liquid is pumped in via a nurse tank. The system is good enough for a 12-hour shift.

THERE are a lot of opinions about adopting liquid fertilisers, and a swag of theories.

But it does seem inevitable that one day granular fertiliser use will be out muscled by a range of liquid nutrients and fungicides that can be placed in-furrow while seeding.

The reason is plain efficiencies and cost savings.

More liquid products are hitting the market which provides a testimony to the claim that liquid treatment for crop establishment and growth is the way the broadacre ag industry is heading.

Yet it seems most farmers are taking small steps in the adoption process.

It’s a preferred pathway for Nanson, near Nabawa, farmer Jason Stokes, who is into his fourth season of in-furrow liquid treatments while maintaining a post-seeding granular spreading treatment as a “best fit”.

Five years ago, Jason still maintained urea spreading before seeding but the niggly thoughts of it being inefficient for his 3500 hectare pro-gram swayed him to set up a liquid kit on his Morris Contour 2 bar and apply liquid nitrogen (N) MAXamFLO at a rate of 50 litres/ha.

“It was a blanket coverage over cereals and oilseeds,” he said. 

“The aim was to increase my nitro-gen up front and going liquid was logistically easier in terms of handling and filling.
“It also dropped out a machine pass and operator.”

It didn’t take Jason long to start thinking about the possibility of custom blends, although at the time the thinking was fixed on applying 20-plus units of N in-furrow, to buy a bit more time post-seeding to assess the season and manage nutrient top up.
While liquid fungicides are applied in-furrow, another dose can be applied at flag leaf if needed with trace elements and slow release N to minimise or eradicate leaf scorch.

That strategy seems to work for Jason who said he was getting a yield response even if there was no detectable level of disease.

“It’s almost like a preventative application maximising green leaf area on the flag for grain fill,” he said.

This year he will take another small step, introducing auto-boom shut-off for liquids and granular applications to stop overlap treatments. 

This will be done in concert with his in-cab display and paddock maps.

He also has arranged a bank of orifice plates across the front of the 12.2m (40ft) Morris bar with tubes running to each tine.

“It’s easier to service the orifice plates across the bar because you do get blockages mixing up different products with different specific gravities or suspended powders that haven’t been agitated enough,” he said.

“It’s just something you’ve got to watch.

“What works for me is pumping water into the mixing tank first, then introducing the trace elements then top up with liquid N.
“It’s the same procedure if it involves fungicides rather than the traces.”

Jason employs a flat-top truck mounted with a 10,000L tank for liquid nitrogen and 2000L tank for water with traces and fungicides pumped from shuttles or Envirodrums where possible.

It’s a nurse system good enough for a 12-hour shift.

He is using Uniform fungicide for controlling stripe rust and rhizoctonia.

Yellow spot suppression after seed is treated with Vibrance fungicide to control seedling diseases.

CalSap is mixed with the fungicides at a rate between 5 and 10L/ha to increase calcium carbonate and reduce acidity in the root zone.

“That’s enough for us,” Jason said. “Over the past four years we’ve played around with a lot of mixes but I’m happy where we are now at with our nutrient and fungicide applications.

“We’ve still got smaller areas where we’re interested in liquid K (potassium) where we have a K issue.

“We’ll trial a K product this year to test if it is chemically compatible with the N sources we use.”

With granular compounds, Jason is sticking with MAPZ or CZ at seeding, with liquid foliar traces applied during the season after leaf testing.

“We use the sap test rather than leaf analysis because it is between four and six days faster and timing is everything,” he said.
Despite the wealth of knowledge he has built up and the mixes he is happy with, Jason remains ambivalent about liquids.
“We’ve done the trials with control versus different products and for me it’s still early days in terms of making any judgements,” he said. 

“I think that could be the case for a while longer.

“When I got into it I thought there would be an industry knowledge bank but I’ve discovered there’s not a lot of research, particularly on the variability of chemicals and compatibilities with trace elements in mixes.

“So at the start for us it was a bit of suck and see and lots of phone calls to company reps.”

Jason agrees the uptake of liquids in broadacre cropping is just starting to “murmur”.

“The early adoptees have been at it for 10 years or more but it still remains a horses-for-courses thing, so it’s hard to say whether it will become an industry norm, particularly when you can achieve the same thing using granules.

“For us, the extra dollars have been seen using liquid nitrogen and while its 3-20 cents/ha more expensive, we know we’re ahead from a logistics and flexible timing point of view.

“It’s just hard to put a dollar figure on it.

“I guess getting rid of the spreader pass at seeding has saved us $6.50/ha and we’ve cut down on vehicles in the paddocks.
“But we haven’t got any research on our property that says there might be a yield benefit using the same amounts of N from liquid as opposed to granules.”

So what does Jason feel about liquids into the future?

“I think liquids will have a fit here for awhile,” he said.

“We’re still on a learning curve and we’d like the industry to work more together, particularly on the compatibility issue.
“Doing a jar test is a frustrating way of finding out what might go with what and it really is only telling half the story.”

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