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SWEEP Report #25

The Development and Testing of a
Dry Fertilizer Placement Machine

Doug Albin and Till-Tech Systems Limited, St. Thomas, Ontario

Executive Summary

Evaluation Summary (Tech. Transfer Report Summaries)

View / Download Final Report  [612 KB pdf]  (No Appendices)

Associated SWEEP/LSP Research



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Completed: August, 1992

Key Words:

urea placement, dry fertilizer injection, 28% nitrogen, urea, zone tillage, timing, sidedress, coulter till, no-till, nitrogen, equipment, corn, yield

Executive Summary

The objective of this project was to develop a machine which would provide farmers practising conservation tillage with the means to apply dry form nitrogen sources (i.e. urea and/or ammonium nitrate). Before the project began, the standard nitrogen source used in reduced tillage systems was liquid 28% N which was applied by an applicator developed to inject the material into the soil.

From an environmental perspective, the benefits of the prototype machine (hereafter referred to as the fertilizer zone-tiller) are seen as follows:

  • the environmental risks associated with storage are lower with dry forms (urea and ammonium nitrate) than with liquid 28% N or anhydrous.

  • the fertilizer zone-tiller works effectively in no-till applications and in varied soil types (tested in sandy loam and clay loam soils). The coulter design cut previous-crop residue for accurate fertilizer placement while leaving trash between the rows for continued soil protection from wind and water erosion.

  • the fertilizer zone-tiller can be pulled in tandem with the planter thus reducing: (1) fuel consumption and (2) field passes (risk of soil compaction is less).

The criteria for judging the success of this project were established as follows:

  • If corn fertilized using the fertilizer zone-tiller performed at least as well as corn fertilized with the liquid 28% N applicator, then the fertilizer zone-tiller is a feasible fertilizer placement machine. [Evaluation parameters - yield, biomass, height and nitrogen uptake]

If comparable or better results can be achieved using dry nitrogen fertilizers (vs. 28% N), then conventional farmers who favour their use might be more inclined to convert to soil conservation cropping techniques.

To establish whether the fertilizer zone-tiller has merit, it was tested over two years with two plots on a sandy loam site (1989, 1990) and one plot at a clay loam location (1990). While corn at the clay loam location did not show a response to nitrogen, good data were collected over two years at the sandy loam site. Results from the latter site are summarized below:

Year 1 - urea vs. liquid 28% N

  • liquid 28% N showed a slight advantage over urea though the yield difference was not statistically significant

Year 2 - dry fertilizer (20% ammonium nitrate + 80% urea) vs. liquid 28% N

  • the dry fertilizer combination outperformed both liquid 28% N treatments (with and without coultering) by a significant 747 kg/ha and 1158 kg/ha respectively

In year 2, ammonium nitrate was applied to all dry fertilizer treatments at time of planting. The timing of urea application was varied according to the original testing procedure.

Starter fertilizer comprised of phosphorus and potassium was applied to plots based on soil test recommendations taken each year.


With the fertilizer zone-tiller performing at least as well as the liquid 28% N applicator, the data clearly suggest that it is a viable alternative in conservation tillage systems.


Evaluation Summary

(From Technology Transfer Report Summaries - A. Hayes, L. Cruickshank, Co-Chairs)

The objective of this 2 year study was to test a machine designed to inject dry forms of nitrogen in no-till or reduce-till systems.

The success of the new machine was assessed by comparing its performance to the standard 28% nitrogen injected mid-row. Performance was based on collecting and evaluating data with regards to: yield, biomass, and nitrogen budget.

Year one of the study compared injection of liquid 28% N and dry urea at two different application times (planting and 6-leaf growth stage). The urea was placed 25 cm from plants on both sides (split application). The liquid 28% N was injected between the rows at the midpoint (approximately 45 cm from the plant). Year one results indicated liquid 28% nitrogen showed no significant yield increase. The trial results also indicated a trend to higher yields when fertilizer was applied at planting as opposed to the 6-leaf stage.

In year 2 of the study it was decided that the urea treatment would have 20% of the total N applied as starter N (ammonium nitrate) to try to offset the slight yield disadvantage measured in year 1. Yield results for year 2 demonstrated a significant yield advantage for the urea injection system.

With the dry unit actually outperforming the 28% system, the researchers concluded the system was a success.


The study goes beyond the testing and development of a dry fertilizer placement machine.

The comparable performance of the urea system could be attributed to some combination of split placement (both sides of row), and starter N in ammonium nitrate for 20% of total N.

  • treat the study as two separate year trials since both the treatments and actual machine changed significantly from year 1 to year 2.

  • the trial results focus as much on product placement as product type.

  • placement for liquid 28% N was 45 cm off the row.

  • in year 1, placement for urea was 25 cm off the row.

  • in year 2, the urea treatment received a boost with an ammonium nitrate starter.

Associated SWEEP/LSP Research:

  • SWEEP Report #28 - The Effect of Split Applications of Nitrogen on Corn Yield Under Ridge and No-Till Conditions.

  • SWEEP Report #66 - Volume V. Economic Assessment of the Technology Evaluation and Development (TED) Program

  • LSP 7018 - Nitrogen Research with Corn Using Conservation Tillage

Future Research: ( ) indicates reviewers suggestion for priority, A - high, C - low.

None required. Research evaluating the best placement and timing of nitrogen applications in conservation tillage systems is ongoing.




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Created: 05-28-1996
Last Revised: Thursday, May 19, 2011 02:24:23 PM