NH3 Rigs Go High-Tech

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NH3 application

In the face of escalating fertilizer prices, anhydrous ammonia (NH3) continues to be an affordable workhorse product. “We’re going to continue to see strong demand for anhydrous — at least in this area — because it is the cheapest use of nitrogen for direct application,” says Dave Coppess of Heartland Co-op, West Des Moines, IA.

Lauren Kiest, head of aNH3, would go further: “Anhydrous use is cost-driven … it’s gaining market share.” In fact at Thurston Manufacturing/BLU-JET, Nick Jensen, vice president of manufacturing, reports record demand for NH3 application products. “Due to the cost of alternatives and our recent advances in NH3 technology, orders have soared,” he says. Companies are not only heeding customers’ calls for larger applicators but they’re bringing in an assortment of helpful tools to make each pound of this nitrogen form count.

Going Wide

Jensen says users really like the longer widths of toolbars that manufacturers are turning out — at BLU-JET, 60-foot on anhydrous units and 90-foot on liquid applicators. In addition, they like mainframes and row units that require less maintenance and are strip-till capable, he says. Earlier this year, BLU-JET’s Strip Till Systems products — a line that includes mainframes as well as highly adjustable, versatile components that can match a great variety of soil types and residue conditions — were honored by no-till farmers. “The implements can deliver NH3, liquid, dry, or dual placement fertilizer solutions in a one-pass application,” describes Jensen.

Wako Inc. offers the XT anhydrous toolbars in five lengths, up to 51 feet. It’s a low maintenance applicator that’s built to handle the abuse of today’s high horsepower tractors, says Wayne Bland, sales director. Wako’s Big Country Wagon quad toolbar is available in lengths up to 59 feet and can do triple duty as a chisel, fertilizer applicator, and field finisher. Its self-leveling system does “near perfect sealing” of anhydrous ammonia, Bland adds.

New from Ag Systems, Inc. is the monster 62-foot Nitromaster 8500 Series pull-type applicator. Paul Lenz says the unit is big, strong, and flexible and can do fall application, preplant NH3 work, and strip-till or zone banding. The Nitromaster 8500′s super heavy-duty wall tubing is designed to carry the heavy loads of coulters, spring bundles, and disc sealers.

Last year, Jenner Sales of Harristown, IL, sold out of Case IH’s “big bars” — the 52½-foot Nutri Placr NTX5310, says James Fehr, sales director. He credits the popularity of these rigs, in part, to the rise of strip-till practices.

“We account much of our recent growth, particularly in our strip-till product line, to the increase of input costs,” says Jensen. “As more growers realize the savings in fuel through a one-pass tillage system and see the benefits of maximizing their fertilizers’ efficiencies through root zone application, they have called upon our products as part of their solution.”

Growers are buying their own bars, says Fehr, to be ready to do their own application. Kiest adds that new farmer wealth is a factor, too. “Now it is apparently time to catch up in buying,” he says.

Toolbar users also appreciate being able to choose a size that fits their needs. Companies such as Dalton Ag Products, Wako Inc., and Agri-Products, Inc. offer a range of bar widths — and some do custom construction. And Thurston, WAKO, and Case IH give dealers and growers the chance to build their own systems, adding only the components needed for their particular field work.

Under Control

Kiest says aNH3 has released a number of updates and new components for its Equaply system to aid anhydrous application, including an injector called the N-Saver that injects N-Serve (anhydrous stabilizer) into the anhydrous stream as it runs to the manifolds. It allows a ratio of the stabilizer to anhydrous — and makes possible variable-rate N-Serve, explains Kiest, “It saves users money when they buy N-Serve in bulk.

“We also have a new electronic in-cab pressure monitoring system which alarms when a row has the wrong amount of anhydrous,” he adds. Plus, because aNH3 switched from hydraulic to electric operated manifold valves, the Equaply system can now interface with variable-rate controllers, such as Ag Leader Insight and John Deere GreenStar.

Controllers will be playing a larger role as dealers help growers maximize nitrogen sources. Heartland’s Coppess says his company will be investing in more variable-rate equipment — “in particular controllers for the toolbars are going to be needed.”

Heacox is a Contributing Editor for the CropLife Media Group, which includes CropLife and CropLife IRON magazines, and the PrecisionAg Special Reports.

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