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30 Years Ago

Wednesday, February 1, 2023
filed under: Historical

                 Double-Duty Applicator / By Don Lilleboe — “Plant a sunflower crop by broadcasting it with a granular fertilizer applicator?  Sure, why not?
        “That was Allen Wold’s attitude in the spring of 1991.
        “During the late ’70s and early ’80s, the west central Minnesota producer planted his sunflower crops with conventional row-crop equipment.  Having been out of sunflower since then, however, he had sold his row-crop plant long before deciding to give ’flowers another try in 1991.
        “Wold previously had broadcast wheat with his Gandy 6216 Orbit-Air applicator?(mounted on a 28-foot Wil-Rich field cultivator) and believed it also could work with sunflower — particularly since he intended to plant Sunwheat, an early maturing dwarf hybrid with a per-acre solid-seeding planting rate of approximately 41,000 to 42.000.
        “Calling the Gandy Company’s Owatonna, Minn., headquarters, Wold learned there was a feed wheel available for the Orbit-Air which, with proper calibration, should work with the unconventionally high Sunwheat population.  Factoring in his field cultivator’s working width and a goal of six pounds of seed to the acre, Wold started out on the light side and then progressively increased the Orbit-Air’s infinite setting until achieving his desired seeding rate.
        “The 1991 Sunwheat crop was planted on June 15 — under very wet conditions — and incorporated at about a 2.5-inch depth by the cultivator. . . .
        “Mother Nature didn’t make it easy for the broadcast ’flowers.  A hard three-inch rain a week after planting produced a thick crust; still, emergence was very good.  Another three-inch rain — this one bringing hail — hit the field prior to budding  Even so, plant stand and canopy cover were exceptional, according to Wold. . . .
        “Not owning a row-crop head or sunflower pans, he purchased 10 sections of eight-point ‘Flexo Guards’ (sometimes referred to as ‘milo guards’) sold by ABM Manufacturing of Salina, Kan.  The Flexo Guards, with their high-density polyethylene boots, attached easily to his straight wheat head, and Wold then set the reel at an angle to the feeder auger similar to that used with wheat.  The system worked very efficiently, according to the Traverse County grower . . .
        “Despite the early season crusting and hail, Wold’s 90 acres of Sunwheat averaged about 1,500 pounds. . . .
        “Wold broadcast his 1992 Sunwheat crop on May 15 — a month earlier than the prior year.  Again, no fertilizer went on the field. . . .
        “Compared to the prior year, the Dumont area was very dry at planting time in ’92.  That, coupled with a seedbed which wasn’t as firm as that of a drilled field, resulted in uneven sunflower emergence. . .
        “The ’92 broadcast Sunwheat crop, also harvested with the Flexo Guards mounted on his wheat head, dried down quickly and yielded about 1,700 pounds per acre.”
        Colorado Irrigator Takes Aim at Watering Efficiency / By Don Lilleboe — “Two crops — one with an appetite for water and the other with more-moderate needs — permit Colorado producer Ryan Weaver to make maximum use of his center-pivot sprinkler irrigation system.
        “Those crops are, respectively, corn and sunflower.  By melding the water needs of the two, Weaver is able to use a single towable sprinkler to irrigate both crops in the same year.
        “The Burlington, Colo., grower — a 14-year sunflower veteran — grows confections under both irrigated and dryland conditions.  Filling out his rotations are corn, edible and winter wheat.
        “Weaver’s ‘semi-irrigated’ sunflower typically requires filling of the soil profile prior to planting, whereas the corn needs watering throughout the summer.  He rotates irrigated corn and sunflower back and forth on adjacent fields, with both pivots tied into the same well.
        “His ‘two-in-one’ methodology is simple and efficient: Following corn harvest, Weaver works and fertilizes the corn field — which will be planted to sunflower the following spring.  Weather permitting, he’ll pre-irrigate the upcoming sunflower field that fall. ?Should there not be time to do so prior to freeze-up, he’ll finish prewatering in the spring for the sunflower crop — and then move it over to the soon-to-be-planted corn field (or, what was last year’s ’flower field).
        “ ‘The idea is to have two circles per growing year — one of ’flowers and one of corn,’ the northeastern Colorado producer explains.  ‘The sprinkler runs, depending on summer moisture, an average of 60 to 75 days on the corn crop.  Then I take off the corn, work the ground again, pre-irrigated it — and move the sprinkler over to where I’ve had ’flowers.’. . .
        “Weaver uses gypsum blocks to guide him in scheduling irrigation water.  ‘I like to have at least two (sets of blocks) per sprinkler,’ he notes, referring to his fields’ variance in soil type and topography.  He reads the blocks at least weekly, keeping a chart of water movement in the soil.  In addition to guiding his watering schedule, ‘it also tells me whether there’s a hardpan,’ he relates.  ‘If a crop shows stress just a few days after being water, but the blocks are showing consistently good moisture at the three- to four-foot depth, that tells me the plant roots are unable to penetrate and use the deep moisture.  This problem then needs to be corrected before the next crop is planted.”
        One-Pass Tillage & Planting / By Don Lilleboe — “Compared to many other crops, sunflower has a well-deserved reputation for its ability to penetrate hardpans and root solidly in the soil.  However, as Bill Fuesz will attest, even the rugged sunflower has its limitations.
        “Fuesz, who farms near the northeastern Colorado of Haxtun, came back into ‘the sunflower fold’ in 1990 after a 15-year absence.  As was his experience during the mid-1970s, Fuesz had good sunflower germination and emergence in 1990 — but then encountered taproot penetration problems due to hardan in his heavy clay loam soils.
        “If he was going to make sunflower an established part of his rotation, the High Plains producer knew he had to resolved the hardpan obstacle.  Simultaneously, he wanted to minimize his field passes in order to contain input costs and maximize at-planting soil moisture reserves.
        “The solution?  An impressive implement which allows Fuesz to bust up the hardpan, working his seeding zone, fertilize and plant — all in a single pass.  His only other spring operation comes when he applies and incorporates his preplant herbicide.
        “Fuesz prepared his combination tillage/planting system during the winter of 1990/91.  Having purchased a six-row Bush Hog ‘Row-Till’ — a combined ripper/in-row tillage implement — he expanded it to eight rows and attached an IH 900 Cyclo planter behind.  Trash whippers (with their depth control provided by ‘heave-limiter’ wheels) are out front, followed by the hardpan-penetrating ripper shanks that also carry his liquid fertilizer beneath the seed zone.
          “Waffle coulters close up the ripped band and simultaneously stir the soil within that zone.  They’re followed by 15-inch-wide rolling baskets and the planter disk openers. The rolling basket centers can be either convex or concave — depending upon the grower’s preference — and are easily changed from one configuration to the other.  Because he wants to firm his seedbed after the ripper and waffle coulters have loosened it, Fuesz runs his baskets in the convex format.”
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