Skip to main content

Trends in Fertilisation Technology

Environmental protection is a central theme in the field of mineral fertiliser application. In addition to innovations that reduce nutrient losses and improve fertiliser distribution, soil conservation is the subject of development.

Farm manure application is particularly affected due to the restricted application times and the ban on application on frozen ground. The associated compulsion for high performance bears the risk of overloading the often moist soil. To avoid this, the loading capacity of the ground must be known in addition to data on the tyres, the wheel load and the air pressure in the tyres. So far, this has been estimated exclusively by drivers based on their experience, their knowledge of the machine and its location, and the current weather conditions. Because objective values for drivability are not yet available, the Novelty Commission awarded a silver medal to the "TerraService" from the companies Rauch and AgriCircle AG from Switzerland. This is a digital service that allows the farmer to conveniently calculate the drivability of farmland in advance from a portable terminal. The user must enter the necessary machine data or retrieve data already stored. Soil moisture is estimated for a small area by radar measurements from the Sentinel1 satellites in combination with weather data. With this machine and soil moisture data, supplemented by information on the soil structure, the drivability of the agricultural area is calculated in advance by means of existing simulation models and displayed for specific areas in a 10-metre grid. The user receives a classification of the drivability and a warning if the ground is not drivable or only conditionally drivable. In addition, the sequence of driving through the field, the entry position of large fields and the processing sequence of the tracks can also be optimised or determined, including to keep from getting stuck. Preventive inspection trips are avoided and, if an inspection is not possible, time-consuming and costly work preparations and unnecessary journeys to the farmland are eliminated.

Soil protection through less slippage is the aim of a new hydraulic drive for Samson slurry tankers. The drive power of the "SAMSON HDP" is automatically controlled depending on the set maximum tractor slip value.

The same company is addressing the problem of widely varying N losses during application with the "SAMSON e-missionN sensor system". This is not a single sensor, but an application with which the expected N loss is calculated for a specific site from an existing simulation model using the measurement data of several sensors. This makes it possible to estimate the nitrogen available to plants from the slurry applied much more accurately and to adjust subsequent mineral N fertilisation to this in a site-specific manner.

Slurry spreader

In the field of spreading farm manure, a number of companies are working on making near-ground manure spreading affordable even for family farms by using relatively simple, narrow spreading technology. With the "Schleppfix" slurry spreader, the Swiss company Brunner presents an extremely simple solution with working widths of 7.2 metres, 9.0 metres and 12.0 metres. The distributor for the drag shoe-like linkage consists of two specially shaped distributor heads made of plastic without hydraulic drives and without rotating parts. The slurry does not reach the blades, which are spaced 25 centimetres apart and have carbide cutting skids, via drain hoses but instead via baffle plates. According to the company, the costs of wear can be reduced by 80 percent.

Sub-area specific mineral fertiliser application

Three applications for the list of innovations deal with the optimisation of nutrient efficiency through site-specific, demand-adapted mineral fertiliser application in combination with the reduction of losses through manure incorporation and depot fertilisation. Duport, supplier of a star wheel injection device for the application of Cultan, is expanding the device's capabilities to include the independent admixture of three other liquids. If liquid fertilisers are used with the "Nutrinject", the nutrient contents can be varied during application. Monosem offers a combination of hoeing and fertiliser incorporation between the rows for row crops. With the "FertiSmart", the metering units of the individual rows can be adjusted independently of each other while driving. This is made possible by electric motors for each row. The companies Rauch and Cult-Tec will show a device for deep fertilisation with depot fertiliser called the "DeePot". Several years of trials have shown that in maize the application of stabilised N-fertiliser in every 2nd row at a depth of 25 cm is sufficient to ensure the nutrient requirement of the plants. In particular due to reduced losses, it was possible to reduce the amount of fertiliser by approx. 20 % in the trials while maintaining the same yield. The Rauch company offers the "MultiRate" single-row metering system for this device, so that fertiliser can be applied to very small areas on a site-specific basis and overlaps in the wedge are avoided.

Boundary spreaders

Boundary spreaders are now practically standard equipment on mineral fertiliser spreaders, not least because of the regulations in the Fertiliser Ordinance. The aim of this additional equipment is to spread the desired amount of fertiliser as close as possible to the field boundary while at the same time not spreading any fertiliser outside the field. In the case of throwing spreaders, this goal becomes increasingly difficult to achieve as the working width increases. If, in accordance with the Fertiliser Ordinance, fertiliser is spread in such a way that it does not cross the field boundary, a relatively wide strip at the field boundary will be supplied with too little fertiliser, resulting in considerable yield losses in this strip. Amazone has developed the "BorderTS", a newly developed spread deflector, which in combination with the well-known border spreading device of the TS system, leads to a considerably improved fertiliser supply to the crops in the border area and at the same time meets the requirements of the Fertiliser Ordinance. With this solution, a run at the field border is required in addition to the previous procedure, using the "BorderTS" border spreading screen. This screen is designed and can be adjusted in such a way that an even spread pattern is produced during the subsequent travel in the first track at a distance of half a working width from the edge of the field and with half the application rate. With this, the familiar method of driving along the field boundary can be combined with the usual driving lane system.

Dr. Norbert Uppenkamp