KEMPTVILLE — In just two cropping seasons, a massive, tractor-drawn manure tanker-injector system has displaced enough fertilizer to recoup the investment made by North Gower Grains.
“The amount we’ve reduced our commercial fertilizer use has paid for the machine,” Delores Foster — partner in the North Gower Grains operation — told a “manure tour” conference in Kemptville on Feb. 14. The Fosters use the machine exclusively for their own operation.
The impressive setup only rolls through fields after the corn crop has emerged, starting at the three-leaf stage and right up until the plants are about four feet tall. Up front is a 250-horsepower Case IH 400 Steiger quad-track tractor, which pulls a six-wheeled, 9,000 gallon Nuhn tanker. At the back of the tanker are a dozen three-inch diameter hoses, which go into a boom covering a width of 12 rows. On the ground at each row, the hose sends manure into a slit created by a wavy coulter, and a pair of angled disks covers the manure back up with soil.
“It leaves a four-inch berm in the middle of each row,” said Ronald Foster, another partner in the family business and driver of the rig.
He’s assisted by GPS to stay exactly within the rows while operating the machine. He drives about 11 km/h — fast enough to cover 90 acres per day.
In the headlands, when turning off, those big tracks and tires do run over some plants. However, these tracked-over areas generally pop up again because the plants are young and flexible enough to recover. “Just don’t go to look at your field the day after,” Delores Foster quipped.
They used the system on about 1,000 acres of their own corn in June last year before the crop grew too tall. While it’s used exclusively with corn, the following year’s soybean crop still benefits from the incorporated manure, according to Delores Foster. The family crops about 6,000 acres.
The business includes a 4,000-head beef lot, the source of their manure, and about 40% of that manure is now injected into the corn crop. The manure is about 30 % dry matter, so they use an enzyme product and a lot of agitation — in the lagoon and in the tanker — to prevent clogging.
They spread (not inject) most of the rest of their manure in the fall, with the help of a third-party contractor.
In addition to delivering more nutrients to the soil and replacing chemical fertilizer, the injection system also cuts down on odour. They’ve been able to inject manure in fields surrounded by urban subdivisions without complaints.
While declining to reveal what the company paid for the equipment, Delores Foster emphasized “it was definitely a worthwhile investment for us.”
“We would love to get another machine,” she said.