Andrea Rice, Director of Research, Education, and Outreach
Missouri Fertilizer Control Board
Nutrient management is essential to farm profitability and sustainability. When fertilizer prices increase, producers become even more conscious of efficiency and proper placement of nutrients.
As part of Missouri Fertilizer Control Board’s efforts, educational videos are being produced to assist producers with equipment maintenance to stretch dollars spent on fertilizer. Maintaining application equipment will also ensure time and nutrients are well-utilized.
Sydenstricker-Nobbe Partners in Macon, MO hosted the video work and gave maintenance tips for a floater-style spreader. Tips will be coming soon on a pull-behind fertilizer spreader. Here are tips on how to maintain a floater-style spreader prior to this cropping season.
Maintenance of Fins on Spinners
The fins are responsible for propelling nutrients onto the field. Irregularities on the fin, known as scaling, can hinder application efficiency. Unfortunately, this is a problem that can’t be seen in the field until after crops begin growing.
One of the best ways to prevent uneven spread is with fin maintenance.
- Once scaling is visible on the fins, it’s time for them to be replaced.
- Replacement is recommended every 25,000 to 35,000 acres of fertilizer applied.
- When replacing, be sure to check the adjustment holes under the spinner assembly are properly aligned. If lined up incorrectly, they, too, can create anomalies in spread pattern.
Be sure to check the owner’s manual for instructions specific to the make/model for tips on proper line-up.
Maintenance of Fertilizer Chute
Chute maintenance keeps the distribution rate of fertilizer from the belt to the fins in working order. Overtime, nutrients cake up on these chutes causing uneven distribution to the fins.
This build up is more prominent on humid days and especially when urea is being applied. On urea application days, chute scraping is recommended daily. When applying pot ash, potassium or phosphorous scraping weekly is advised.
Above all, keep the chute clear of nutrient build up to keep your spread patterns equal and improve your crop yields.
Maintenance of Belt Over Chain
Maintenance of the chain powering the belt conveyor cannot be overlooked. This chain, when properly tensioned, shifts the appropriate amount of nutrients to the chute for dispersal.
- Start by measuring the tension on your chain. The distance from the chain to the sill should be approximately 36 to 40” on each side.
- If your tension is off, move to each side of the bed to adjust.
- First, loosen the jamb nut, then tighten your adjustment screw.
- Once the appropriate tension is achieved, retighten your jamb nut to hold.
- Finish with chain lubrication. Use 3-parts diesel fuel to 1-part new motor oil to reduce wear on your chain and keep it functioning properly.
- Please note, used motor oil is not recommended for this application since it is more acidic in nature.
Bed calibration is the final step in ensuring your efficiency with fertilizer application.
Bed Calibration is a two-step process.
- Step one, Static Calibration, is achieved with a catch test.
- This test measures the actual distribution weight of the nutrients against the programmed distribution weight.
- Once run, compare the weight of actual dispersal to the intended dispersal weight and adjust as necessary.
- Step two, In Field Calibration allows you to fine tune distribution.
- In this calibration method, equipment is programmed to run through a set amount of nutrients per acre.
- Once that acreage is achieved, determine if or when your nutrients ran out and adjust accordingly.
When used together, these calibration methods can get you within a 2 to 3% window of application accuracy.