New planting system combines nutrition with no-till for top yields.

A new planting system combines a reengineered no-till planter with better nutrition and soil- and water-handling characteristics for top yields. The system, Nu-Till, takes no-till to a higher level of performance and will increase yields over traditional no-till programs, according to the system's developer Ag Spectrum, DeWitt, IA.

Precise nutrition. The Nu-Till system grew out of research from USDA and universities showing the importance of properly balanced nutrients to soil fertility. "It was good data that helped us understand ways to optimize the soil," says Wayne Stuedemann, president and CEO of Ag Spectrum.

The system requires precise and timely placement of nutrients to help crops grow. "Nitrogen is only applied in the spring when planting, and possibly later as a sidedress if needed for late-season hybrids," Stuedemann explains. Banding nitrogen with the planter provides nitrogen where and when the plants need it.

"Generally this reduces the amount of nitrogen applied," he adds. "Compared to conventional programs, we usually cut N rates 25 to 35%."

A special formulation of phosphorus called Clean Start also must be applied with the system. Stuedemann says the early phosphorus application enhances kernel development. Applicator tubes spray the nutrient directly on the seed in the furrow. A micronutrient enhancement called Kick-Off is sprayed at the same time. Ag Spectrum developed both products.

Additional fertilizer is applied only if soil tests show phosphorus and potassium fall below a medium level on a field, Stuedemann says. He considers a "maintenance" application of fertilizer a waste for a field with phosphorus and potassium levels at medium or above.

Planter modifications. Planting according to the Nu-Till system requires modifications to a traditional planter. "We do not sell the equipment," Stuedemann says. "We just partner with individuals who patented the equipment."

Key equipment components include special trash wheels, a seed firmer to press the seed into the furrow, closing wheels and the nitrogen banding mechanism. The equipment fits on most planters. Stuedemann claims that all these modifications usually cost less than $1,000/row.

Special trash wheels from Martin and Company rake away trash and do not move dirt like other no-till coulters do. Then the seed disc requires only a minimal amount of down pressure to open a seed trench. If soils are wet, less pressure is required, allowing earlier planting.

A Keeton Seed Firmer presses the seed into the furrow bottom by firming rather than crushing the soil, Stuedemann reports. The seed firmers are available with applicator tubes for placing Clean Start and Kick-Off directly onto the seed.

Martin Spading closing wheels finish the job by keeping compaction to a minimum above the seed furrow.

Beefed up no-till. "This is for farmers who want to make no-till work," Stuedemann says. "A farmer can expect that if the Nu-Till system is implemented in its entirety and accurately, yields will at least match conventional yields and in many cases surpass them."

In addition, the equipment and operating expenses of Nu-Till will be significantly less than those of conventional tillage because it requires fewer trips across the field and less fertilizer, Stuedemann says. Plus, farmers are able to plant under wetter conditions than with conventional no-till because of the modifications made to the planting equipment and the soil's ability to function under higher moisture content.

For more information, contact Ag Spectrum, Dept. FIN, Box 215, DeWitt, IA 52742, 319/659-5046.