We began using the spoke wheel to apply our top dress fertilizer package in 1989. Due to the results we were seeing, we went from a split application, where we applied part of our fertilizer into the summer fallow in the form of anhydrous ammonia during the summer months prior to the crop year, to applying our total fertilizer package in the spring into the growing crop using the spoke wheel.
We could also see how it would be beneficial to control the damage caused by erosion if we could go to a continuous cropping system and eliminate the summer fallow completely. So in 1992, we began an annual cropping rotation on our 5,000 acre farm.
The success we have seen could not be achieved without the spoke wheels ability to nest the fertilizer into the root zone of the growing crop at the time in which the plant is ultimately able to utilize the fertilizer. By proper timing of the fertilizer you are better able to match fertilizer needs with the crop potential due to crop conditions and available moisture.
The SpikeWheel technology decreases the chances of the fertilizer escaping either through volatilization, water run-off or leaching which was occurring with the old split application process of previous years. Since this method is one which causes a minimal amount of disturbance to the crop versus what would be caused by a colter injector or surface banding, we are not seeing a decrease in our yield.
Another benefit in which we are seeing is the fact that we can minimize the amount of straw which is grown and concentrate on producing more crop, thus eliminating a residue problem for future crops and increasing our profit. Since we began using this system of applying fertilizer on our farm, there have been other farmers who have begun to see the positive attributes of this application method. This has lead us to begin doing custom application work and the rental of spoke fertilizer machines to others as well as selling equipment to individuals who have begun to use the spoke wheel for their own use and also provide additional income through custom work of their own.
As the profit margin in farming decreases, we have seen an increase in the usage of the spoke wheel to apply fertilizer. Since you are not investing your money in an unsure situation for a long period of time and instead you are applying the product to the growing crop, it is an attractive asset to your lender.
Recently, with the increase nationwide of no till and minimum till farming practices, we saw a need for a more durable, heavy-duty wheel which could meet the extra demand required in these conditions. This also would allow a minimal amount of maintenance needed for thousands of acres. In early 2003, we introduced our all-new heavy duty SpikeWheel™ to comply with these demands. The solid dish design increased the strength and durability required by farmers using this technology in their operation. We also saw a need to be able to apply liquid products such as surfactants, wetting agents, insecticides, pesticides and nematicides into established strands of alfalfa, grass seed, sod and turf. The demand for this type of application was met with the inception of the heavier spring arm and also a machine specifically designed for turf applications better known as LiquiJect™. The results seen with the combination of this tool and the products used have been remarkable.
To date, we have used some of the wheels on our custom application machines to apply fertilizer to more than 60,000 acres every year. At this time we are satisfied that the changes which have been made to the wheel have achieved one which is more durable than the wheel which we began using and increased the life of the wheel thus reducing costs of operation.