Boy, I started the first day at the Ag In Motion farm show walking behind a manure spreader so there was really no where for the day to go, but up.
Actually I kept a bit of distance behind the Dutch Industries Biospreader. It is large capacity, spreader with
vertical beater bars that was part of a demonstration by eight different manufacturers of fertilizer application equipment.
Dutch Industries had the only manure applicator at the demonstration, while Salford, TerraGator and John Deere all showcased boom style (floater) granular fertilizer application. And Amazone from Germany, Salford from Ontario, and AgriSpread from Agriterra group and Sulky made in France all demonstrated rear-mounted, spin-style spreaders.
I really couldn’t tell if one machine did a superior job over another. The fertilizer got spread. Some equipment apparently wasn’t quite properly adjusted for the few hundred feet of field travel. The Amazone guys did have a neat system for measuring fertilizer distribution. They laid out several collection mats across the area they travelled – purple mats that showed the distribution of blue pellets quite well. They were able to photograph the distribution pattern of the pellets and their cell phone app could calculate fertilizer rate from that pattern.
DRONE FOR WEED CONTROL
Later in the day I discovered some more technology that raises the bar on effective weed control. Daniel McCann owner of Precision.ai in Saskatchewan has developed a weed-spraying drone that literally just sprays weeds. The drone, which has about a four-foot wide diameter can we loaded with about 20 litres of product. McCann says those 20 litres will do the equivalent of about 600 litres in a conventional field sprayer.
The drone is equipped with artificial intelligence which uses NDVI and other tools to only identify weeds (or non-crop plant species). “Basically, if you have field of canola, for example, you tell the done “don’t spray canola” and it will go out and spray everything but canola in your field,” says McCann. “It is very specific.”
The drone flies about two meters above the crop canopy, and has a scissor-type mechanism that can lower the short boom closer to the top of the crop. “When it identifies a weed or weed patch the boom is actually only about four inches above the weed and applies chemical directly on the weed,” he says. “It is fully programmed and with artificial intelligence you can launch it from your farm yard, and then go do something else,” he says. “The drone will go spray the weed patches in your canola field (or whatever crop) and then return to the yard.”
Amazing new technology in the area of autonomous weed control. It is a new system that McCann is offering as a service on a pilot basis, but he hopes after more field work to market the drones directly to producers so they can do their own spraying. For more information visit the company website at: precision.ai.
GREAT OPPORTUNITY WITH HOG MANURE
Sask Pork was at Ag In Motion for the first time promoting pig manure. Actually the producer organization was
on a two-fold mission, says hog producer and board member John Beckton of Saskatoon. Hog manure is an excellent nutrient source (fertilizer) that can benefit grain farmers — so if you live near a hog farm see if you can line up (buy) some manure for your fields. And secondly they are also trying to expand the Saskatchewan hog industry. One business model they are proposing is for two or three grain farmers (or a small group) to work together to build a hog barn, get the benefits of the manure for their crop land and also sell hogs — a diversified farming operation.
Mark Ferguson with Sask Pork says a reasonable starter size operation would be a 2,500-pig finishing barn. The farmer group could finish hogs under contract with a processing plant. The group buys weanling pigs from other producers and then finishes them to processor specifications. A valuable by product of the operation is the manure that goes back on the cropland benefiting crop production and soil quality.
As part of their display at AIM, Sask Pork had demo plots of cereals and canola with some quite dramatic side-by-side comparisons of crop fertilized with hog manure next to plots that had not been fertilized. Hog manure was applied at rates varying from 8,000 to 4,000 gallons per acre.
“It is an excellent natural fertilizer”, says Beckton, who has used manure for years on his farms. At the 8,000 gallon per acre rate, hog manure delivers about $245 per acre worth of nutrients to crop. Cost of application (injected into the soil) is about $88 per acre leaving a net value of $157 per acre, not including micronutrients.
“An application of hog manure will release nutrients to the crop over three years,” says Beckton. “Particularly if you have some poorer soil, such as sandy soil, the benefits of hog manure will be dramatic.” He says he has some fields that were fertilized with hog manure 15 years ago “and you can still see a difference in the crop on those acres that received the manure,” he says.
So, hog manure as a valuable fertilizer, and perhaps invest in a hog operation not only for economic diversification, but for improved crop production and soil quality. Visit saskpork.com for further details and contact information.
Lee Hart is a field editor with Grainews based in Calgary. Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at [email protected]