The newest coulter-only applicators are designed to address those problems. Manufacturers say that second-generation tools are equipped with better sealing mechanisms such as new and improved closing wheels, sealing plates and adjustable gang angles to minimize fertilizer escapes.

The coulters themselves are now bigger to increase the depth of application. For example, some companies have gone from an 18-in.-dia. blade to a 22-in.-dia. blade. Other changes include better down-pressure systems, more accurate gauge wheels, the addition of row cleaners, and improved wiper wheels to clean off residue.

“We’ve taken extreme measures to ensure that, if conditions are generally favorable, any loss in anhydrous is no more than using a knife,” says John Deere’s Bradley. He says Deere supplied the applicators in the recent study in Illinois, Iowa, and Kansas in order to find the weak spots of its prototype, all of which have been addressed with its new 2510H applicator.

Great Plains has gone to a three-coulter liquid system with its new Nutri-Pro 3000 and 4000 applicators, which went into production in 2011. The middle coulter runs between two row cleaners, and the rear coulters are 8 in. apart. They clean and till a 12- to 14-in. zone. One or all three can apply liquid fertilizer, says Tom Evans, vice president of sales for Great Plains.

“We are using turbo coulters to fluff up the soil and precision place fertilizer. Then, with RTK guidance, plant 4 in. to the side of the fertilizer,” Evans says.

Other companies, like Exactrix and aNH3, have focused on the anhydrous delivery system to reduce losses. They have designed their own pressurized systems that keep anhydrous in its liquid form until it is injected in the ground. As a result, the manufacturers say that the systems are not going away soon.

“As it stands, we feel very confident of our current system,” says Dawn’s Arthur in reference to the new Anhydra 6000. “Provided it is properly configured, it can put down very high rates of multiple products at very high speeds in basically any condition. And with regard to sealing performance, I’ll take on a mole knife any day of the week.”