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Published September 02, 2014, 11:43 AM

Hagie to display tall nitrogen tool bar at Big Iron

FARGO, N.D. — Side-dressing nitrogen fertilizer played a bigger role in the 2014 crop and is likely to increase in the coming years, according to experts. Darrell Steiner is a sales manager for Hagie Manufacturing Co. Inc. of Clarion, Iowa, one of the companies making products to help with that function. The company again will be at the Big Iron Farm Show this year.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

FARGO, N.D. — Side-dressing nitrogen fertilizer played a bigger role in the 2014 crop and is likely to increase in the coming years, according to experts.

Darrell Steiner is a sales manager for Hagie Manufacturing Co. Inc. of Clarion, Iowa, one of the companies making products to help with that function. The company again will be at the Big Iron Farm Show this year.

Hagie has been around since 1947 when farmer Ray Hagie started a seed company and needed a detasseler with high clearance to save labor during World War II. The third-generation owner is Alan Hagie, who also still farms.

The company’s Single Tank Sprayers can be fitted with a nitrogen tool bar (NTB). They’re able to apply late nitrogen in standing corn as tall as 10 to 11 feet.

“It just rolls the corn under the machine as they’re putting nitrogen on, but typically they’ll do it before tasseling,” Steiner says.

First self-propelled

Hagie added a spray tank for late-season corn, making what was said to be the first self-propelled sprayer on the market. The company makes machines for commercial applicators, but also for individual farmers, especially as it has grown larger.

“We sell several hundred a year,” Steiner says. “A farmer or a dealer, a retailer, can take a spray boom off and put the nitrogen tool bar on and go side-dress 28 or 32 percent nitrogen.”

Hagie dominates the “very high-clearance” market of 70 inches or more, although John Deere, RoGator and others have machines with clearance in the 50-inch-plus range. The company sells directly to farmers and has a salesman in Sioux Falls, S.D., who covers North Dakota and South Dakota. Cost of the tool bar varies by size, measured in feet per row. The 12-row high-clearance machine runs in the mid $30,000 range; 16-row in the $40,000 range. A 24-row in high-clearance is more than $100,000.

Hagie has several dozen of the machines in South Dakota and North Dakota, Steiner says. In some parts of the country, including Illinois and Iowa, the corn gets so tall so quickly, equipment has to get down through the corn at a rapid pace to deliver nitrogen.

“The Hagie will do that,” he says.

“We are coming out with a 24-row low-clearance toolbar — about half the height of the current one — (and it) will probably run about $50,000 to $60,000, and that’s a 60-footer too, so that’s going to be quite exciting,” Steiner says. “In this side-dress application business, most of it is a pull-behind. Most of the guys want to go when corn is shorter, and you want to move fast, and you want to get a lot done. That bar will perfectly fit that market.”

Also on the nitrogen toolbar, Hagie offers the OPTRX sensor, which visually determines the color of the chlorophyll in the corn plant.

“If it’s dark green and rich, it probably doesn’t need nitrogen, but if it’s light colored, it would ask for nitrogen,” Steiner says. “By sensing it, reading it, it can vary the amount of nitrogen as it goes through the field.”

The Single Tank Sprayer ranges from the STS-10 — 1,000 gallons — to the STS-16, with a 1,600-gallon tank.

For farmers who don’t want a $300,000 machine, Hagie also builds a Dual Tank Sprayer unit, which is 1,000 gallons. That runs $180,000 to $190,000.

“That’s a very light machine, a very well-balanced machine, but it gets a farmer into the market for doing all of his post-spraying and even pre-spraying,” Steiner says.

Environment, yield

Farmers are choosing side-dressing for many reasons.

“There’s a lot of discussion about nitrogen leaching into groundwater, getting to the Gulf of Mexico,” Steiner says. “Here in Minnesota, there’s discussion about not allowing anhydrous (ammonia nitrogen) applications in the fall because of that. If that should happen, that’s going to dramatically change when a farmer gets his nitrogen on.

“You can’t put on all of your side-dressing in the spring, there’s just no way,” he says. “Side-dressing is going to become more and more prevalent later if that does happen.”

Hagie sells out of its machines every year.

“It’s kind of frightening because if that kind of demand comes, we just can’t handle it,” Steiner says. “I still think they’ll move down that path. They can see yield results by putting on side-dress nitrogen also.”

Joel Ransom, a North Dakota State University Extension Service agronomist, agrees that more farmers are using side-dressing for various reasons.

Nitrogen fertilizer historically has been a significant input cost in corn or wheat production, but only about a third of the nitrogen applied is used by the crop, Ransom says. Leaching takes place on lighter soils and denitrification, occurs in heavier, wetter soils found in the Red River Valley and other locations.

Yield, quality

Nitrogen availability affects yield, but also quality in wheat. Higher-yielding varieties have lower protein content.

In 2013, a scarcity of fertilizer in some areas because of slow train delivery icaused a switch to side-dressing ammonia.

“Split applications of nitrogen on corn are something we think is good news,” Ransom says. “Generally, because it reduces the risk of loss before the plant is going to need it the most.

“I think something like this might have an application in those scenarios,” he says. “Your main uptake follows the height of your corn into grain filling. There’s greater demand the larger the plant, and you don’t want to starve it anywhere in that uptake process.”

Dave Franzen, North Dakota State University Extension soils specialist, says farmers in the Corn Belt might delay application to the V9 stage, or nine-leaf state.

“In my opinion, in my experience, in North Dakota you should do it in the V5 to V8 stage, if at all possible,” Franzen says, but acknowledges farmers dealing with a major rain event might benefit from later applications.

The loss of nitrogen can be serious, especially in wet years, Franzen says. He’s cooperating with an eight-state research project with Pioneer seed. Losses of nitrogen to denitrification were 120 pounds per acre at side-dress time in a high-clay test plot between Casselton and Mapleton, N.D., in 2014. Nitrogen losses were far less near Amenia, N.D., in medium-textured soils with corn production capabilities of more than 150 bushels per acre.

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