Heinz Oellermann, Head of Grains, Agri Technovation
The sustainable way forward
These days farming practices are largely technologically driven. Technology comes at a cost however and should therefore be utilised effectively to ensure optimal return on your investment. A practice already widely used in the USA is in-furrow application of plant nutrients as well as biologicals. This practice has also spilled over into South Africa and opens up a new world for our producers.
Kevin Kalb, a producer and fourteen-times winner of the National Corn Yield Contest in the USA, shared his winning recipe during a visit to Agri Technovation in March 2023. For Kevin, in-furrow application is a given and certainly forms part of his continued success. He also emphasised that this technology offers him the opportunity to move away from using only chemical fertilisers and switch to more sustainable fertilisation.
Beneficial for the plant
- Immediate availability of nutrients
Planters can be equipped to do in-furrow application very accurately and to correctly place the prescribed volume of the product being applied. The fertilisers are immediately available to the seedling, as they are applied directly into the planting furrow very close to the seeds. The result is faster and more even development of the seedlings, with improved stand establishment. Here we refer to the “pop-up” effect.
Figure 1: Good stand establishment due to ‘pop-up’ effect.
1. Increase in vigour
Rapid and even emergence of seedlings is always the goal. Plants that develop slower than the rest of the stand always have a backlog and, as a result, they cannot develop to their full potential. With in-furrow technology, the young plants all get an equal chance to compete for nutrients, water and sunlight and thus increased photosynthesis.
1. Strong young seedlings
Strong-growing seedlings are less exposed to disease and/or insect damage. Furthermore, chemical damage to the plant is limited, since the coleoptiles of stronger seedlings pass faster through the upper soil zone, where pre-emergent herbicide is present.
2. Improved root system
Since the germinal roots reach the fertiliser faster and develop optimally, the main root system will resultantly also develop strongly. The main root system develops from the mesocotyl, about 2.5 cm below the ground surface. There is a direct correlation between above and below ground growth and therefore, the improved root system will also positively impact above-ground growth.
Figure 2: Main root system developing from mesocotyl.
- Effective application
Usually with soil corrections, plant- and top fertilisation, the focus is only on macroelements. With in-furrow application however, the producer is given the opportunity to effectively administer biological agents as well as microelements and root growth stimulants, resulting in a more complete nutritional supplement. Seedlings are therefore given optimal opportunity for aggressive early plant growth.
Benefits for the producer
Producers are constantly working to increase yields and in-furrow application makes it possible to achieve this objective.
In addition to traditional fertiliser, more complete fertilisation programmes can be followed, presenting an opportunity to also apply microelements, biological agents, inoculants and root growth stimulants economically and profitably.
In-furrow application contributes in various ways to a producer’s ability to continuously produce a sustainable profitable increase in yield, with specific reference to the following:
- Chemical fertilisers contain salts. Yields may be compromised if salts are present during drier seasons or in light sandy soils.
- In-furrow fertiliser applications are placed close to the roots of the seedling, which maximises absorption and reduces leaching. Accurate fertiliser applications could increase its efficiency by 25% to 30%.
- In-furrow application of biological products feeds the microbes and thus, significantly more soil nutrients are made available to the plant, for example where a study determined a maize yield increase of up to 200 kg/ha.
The technology of in-furrow application therefore provides the producer with options. The option to exploit the benefits linked to in-furrow application and then also, ultimately, the option to apply more sustainable fertilisation practices with increased profitability.
In-furrow application definitely offers a sustainable way forward!