By Clinton Monchuk
Video: Sustainable Farming: How Does a No-till Planting System Work?
There are many moving parts to a modern, no- till planting system and new technologies allow farmers to be more precise with seed and fertilizer placement. This not only saves time and money but ensures that each seed has the best possible start with minimal soil disturbance.
It really all starts off with the soil!
On our farm we value the advice of soil scientists who take soil samples from each field and develop a plan of what fertilizers to use and in what amounts to maximize plant growth. Each field is a little different, so we have the ability to adjust the rates of seed and fertilizer, effectively with the push of a button. There are sensors found throughout the planting system that monitor seed placement and fertilizer rates.
Our family farm started using minimal or no-till planting in 1996 and we’ve seen a substantial increase in the amount of soil organic matter and moisture retained in the soil resulting in higher and more consistent yields. We feel this farming method is sustainable for our family’s future farmers, my children and nieces!
So, what’s fertilizer and why do we use it?
Soil is a living environment with different soil microscopic organisms, insects and earthworms who make soil their home. Soil also feeds the plants that grow in it. In order to properly care for the soil and the crops that grow in it, we have to ensure proper nutrition exists. Fertilizer is like taking a multivitamin to stay healthy. Farmers mainly focus on four macro-nutrients to provide strong soil and crop health, Nitrogen – Phosphorous – Potassium – Sulphur.
These different nutrients can either be manufactured or mined, but can also be applied through other sources like animal manure. In our case, we are using anhydrous ammonia (mentioned in the video) as a source of nitrogen. Ammonia is high in nitrogen and when anhydrous (without water) ammonia is injected into the soil through the planting system it is readily absorbed into the soil moisture as nitrogen.
Video: Sustainable Farming: Why do Farmers Treat Seed?
Dirt and seed sometimes can become contaminated or diseased, which is why farmers can proactively address some of these issues through seed treatments. Similar to applying sun screen on your body when you know you’ll be in the sun, farmers apply seed treatments to protect the seed against seed or soil borne diseases that will damage or kill the plant. This allows for a strong seedling and a more consistent crop.
Video: Sustainable Farming: How do you Fill an Air Seeder Tank?
It always amazes me how improvements in technology help farmers out even in just moving grain or fertilizer around! Through the invention of augers and hydraulics we no longer have to shovel nearly as much, resulting in just one person usually needed to do the work of what used to take two or three.
The ‘flighting’ in the auger acts like a screw that pushes the grain from the bottom of my air seeder cart, where the opening in the grain truck box is, up to the top. These tanks hold 350 bushels, or roughly the volume of filling an average sized bedroom (11’ x 11’) from the floor to your chest, and can be filled in about 15 minutes. The quick fill times allow us to spend more time planting our crops.
Video: Sustainable Farming: How do Farmers Ensure They Don’t Over Apply Fertilizer?
Ensuring that the proper amount of fertilizer is applied in the correct place is easy if your field was always square… but it’s not! New technologies including GPS allow sections of planting systems to automatically turn on and off in areas that you have already planted, resulting in less waste and more precision application of fertilizer. This saves farmers money and is more environmentally beneficial too.
Video: Sustainable Farming: Why is Seed Placement Important?
With all these technologies we still have to get on our hands and knees sometimes. Digging in the dirt to find seeds ensures that our depth is set correctly and seeds are being placed into moisture. Having precise and even seed placement allows for better germination and a more uniform crop when it comes to herbicide and fungicide applications, as well as harvesting.
Video: Sustainable Farming: Seeding with Katelyn
Family time during busy seasons of spring planting or fall harvesting helps me with my overall health. Our tractors and combines all have ‘buddy seats’ that allow operators to have another individual ride along. My son and daughter usually take time on weekends or holidays to ride around with me and allows us some catch-up time! It also plants the seed of food and farming in the minds of our future generation!