University research is a terrific thing. Great academic minds take the time to limit variables and replicate trials over numerous years and sites. Still, after years of testing, it may not answer your one burning question … will this work on my farm?
For this reason, I love the format of Beck's Hybrids' Practical Farm Research program. Led by Jason Webster, this team, which also includes Clayton Stufflebeam and a slew of interns, is out to answer that one burning question for their customers.
Webster's most recent experiments deal with late-season nitrogen. When I visited last week, the team was evaluating three different methods of applying nitrogen to standing corn with a high-clearance applicator. One was a high-pressure injection system for 28% UAN following a coulter. The second was a precision drop urea rig. The third was a new way to dribble 28% UAN.
Conventional UAN dribbling is not quite an exact science. Hoses hang between rows and squirt liquid about 15 inches from either root zone. The system Webster was testing seeks to make the process a bit more accurate. The Y Drop splits each hose near the ground and places the liquid N in furrow. Sounds like a pretty good idea. I guess we'll know at the end of the year when Webster and the crew tally the results.
The Y Drop system simply splits the UAN hose from the sprayer boom and places product closer to the root zone.
Of course Webster notes the urea and dribbled UAN methods are at extremely high risk for N volatilization this year with the overall lack of rain. For this reason, he really likes the UAN injection or sidedress method in standing corn.
Either way, it will be interesting to see the PFR team's results after this year. We know it's been a dry, and fairly hot, growing season thus far. The figures should say a lot in terms of N loss in those conditions. While studies that combine oodles of site years are extremely helpful, sometimes you just want to know what happened in the field last year. I'm willing to bet everyone will remember the challenges we've gone through thus far in 2012. So, if this year is the big outlier in the data set on late-season N, I'm sure you'll remember why.
Jason Webster makes a pass through the field with the Y Drop/UAN dribble high clearance rig. It's one of four systems Beck's PFR team is testing this year.