There is solid fertilizer that you broadcast with a spinner spreader in most cases, or occasionally, apply in a band. Then there is liquid fertilizer, often 28% liquid or a starter containing P and K. Finally, there is suspension fertilizer, which is phosphorus and potassium and anything else you want to add blended in a suspension, and applied with booms and drops.
Gabe Ayres, of Clunette Elevator, Clunette, located in Kosciusko County, says that while some have moved away from suspension, his company still believes it has advantages.
"One advantage is the uniformity of application," he says. Ayres believes that with their high-tech application equipment and skilled applicators, they get a uniform spread with suspension. You're allowed to make a statement like 'our skilled applicators' when one of them is Glen Slabaugh, named National Applicator of the Year by AGCO Application Equipment in 2012.
Another advantage is flexibility, Ayres notes. They can add herbicide in the application if the customer wants it. They often apply a soil-applied herbicide along with the suspension mix. In fact Ayres believes it may be one reason they have encountered fewer problems with herbicide-resistant weeds so far in their area. Many farmers who use their services have been applying a residual herbicide, which provides another mode of action to help prevent weed resistance from developing.
Being able to add herbicide is one example of how flexible their application process is, he says. If you want to add herbicide with a dry system, typically you make a separate pass for the herbicide.
One thing they haven't done as much is variable rate application. However, they can do it, and have made variable rate applications for P and K already this spring.
"We just have to do it one product at a time," Ayres says. "We go over the field and variable rate one product, then go back over and variable rate the other product. Our equipment isn't set up to carry more than one product at a time."