Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Right Recipe

The right recipe is an important tool for any baker.

Getting that right mix of ingredients is equally important when it comes to getting a wheat crop off to a good start. With our region in an exceptional drought, the wheat needs all the help it can get. We try to improve its chances by applying fertilizer as we drill the 2012 crop.

Meal delivery is my specialty. But during these wheat planting days, I add fertilizer delivery to my list of chores.

I take the pickup and trailer to the Zenith branch of the Kanza Co-op to get the next tank load of fertilizer. First stop is the scales, where the pickup and fertilizer trailer are weighed empty. (After it's full, I weigh on again.)

Then I pull into the fertilizer shed, where the co-op worker hooks a hose from the co-op's tank to the trailer.

Then he turns a series of levers to provide the "recipe" that Randy asked for.

The fertilizer is a mix of nitrogen, phosphate and sulfur. This year, we're not adding as much phosphate in the fertilizer mix because it's so expensive. This is the first year we're adding sulfur. According to K-State Research and Extension, sulfur can help increase yields. Per acre, we're applying 20 pounds of nitrogen, 5 pounds of phosphate and 4 pounds of sulfur.

The yellow tank on the drill holds the fertilizer. The starter fertilizer is laid down right beside the planted seed. As the seed germinates, its roots seek out the nitrogen, phosphate and sulfur, establishing a strong root system.

Randy refills the yellow fertilizer tank on the drill by hooking up the trailer that I brought back from Zenith. The "nurse" tank holds 1,000 gallons of fertilizer. Kind of like a big "measuring cup," the tank is marked. That way, Randy can look at the tank to see how much fertilizer he's applied to each landlord's field. The co-op can then bill everyone accordingly.

It means plenty of trips back and forth to Zenith during wheat drilling season. (And it means a hefty bill will soon appear in my mailbox. But we hope it pays off down the road. Time will tell.)

"On the road again, just can't wait to get on the road again ..." (Yes, Willie Nelson's song is running around in my brain these days.)

Check out AgWeb.com and see how agriculture is affecting 6.5 billion people daily. September 29's Day in Agriculture tells the stories of America's farms and the people who make it happen!