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Liquid injection system puts crop nutrition ahead of the game  

Injecting liquid trace elements has helped reverse soil nutrient deficiencies and achieve greater efficiencies on Sam Kelly’s mixed farming operation. 

ABOUT
  • WHO:Sam Kelly
  • WHERE:Yass, New South Wales
  • CROP:Mixed enterprise, including 1000 ha cropping operation
  • EQUIPMENT: Liquid Systems (SA) PR-1, a single liquid auto-rate pump and control module
KEY OUTCOMES
  • Reversed nutrient deficiencies in wheat crops
  • Single operating system has simplified seeding operation 
  • Efficiencies of sowing operation, reduced downtime
  • Plug and play makes set up easier 

Running a diverse farming operation with livestock and cropping enterprises spread across multiple properties requires efficient use of time and resources by Sam, who farms near Yass in the NSW Southern Tablelands.  

Now into his eighth season of using direct injection for micronutrient and fungicide applications, Sam believes it’s an efficient and proactive method of maintaining crop health, providing crops and pastures with more immediate access to the micronutrients they need. 

He says using Liquid Systems puts him ahead of the game. “If you find a problem with a particular crop, by the time you figure out the cause it’s probably too late. Our plant health is improving and ultimately, we are seeing better grazing production and wheat yields,” he said.  

If you find a problem with a particular crop, by the time you figure out the cause it’s probably too late. Our plant health is improving and ultimately, we are seeing better grazing production and wheat yields

Sam first purchased a Liquid Systems (SA) PR-1 injection system in 2017, which he mounted on a 1200 L liquid cart, and towed behind a K-Line seeding bar. He recently upgraded his sowing gear to an 8m Bourgault seeding bar and Flexicoil 2340- tow behind cart, which he fitted with the original PR-1 Pump and Control module and a 2500 L liquid tank. 

A Trimble XCN 2050 with Field IQ allows Sam to control guidance, air seeder and Liquid System module through one screen. This was a key priority for Sam when he was looking at direct injection equipment. 

“At one point, I had a guidance screen, a tractor screen, and an air seeder screen. The last thing I wanted was another screen for my Liquid System. Liquid Systems equipment was Trimble-ready, allowing me to plug it straight in and operate off the one screen,” he said. 

The upgrade to Sam’s sowing equipment was about gaining capacity and efficiency. “We were spending 30% of our time filling up and 60 % sowing, now we’ve reduced our downtime and it’s more like 10% filling and 90% sowing. We can cover around 50 hectares with one fill, which is pretty much a whole day of sowing,” said Sam. 

We were spending 30% of our time filling up and 60 % sowing, now we’ve reduced our downtime and it’s more like 10% filling and 90% sowing. We can cover around 50 hectares with one fill, which is pretty much a whole day of sowing.

Sam transitioned to liquid injection after experiencing a very wet season in 2016. He attempted to rescue dying wheat crops by applying foliar nutrients by air to combat poor nutrient availability. “It was the wettest winter on record and our wheat crops started to die. Nutrients such as copper are less available to plants in very wet conditions. We tried a few things including applying foliar nutrients by air, which was very expensive and also too late,” he said.  

Using soil test and tissue samples results, Sam worked closely with his Agronomist to develop a fertiliser program that addressed identified deficiencies in copper, zinc, boron and silicon.

He now sows with a custom blend of MAP and urea and a mix of liquid products including Omnicop which includes copper, SeedBoostTM by Omnia, Impact and Molybdenum sodium (on canola).  SeedBoostTM, which includes a range of 11 elements from phosphorus and manganese to sulphur and zinc, is typically used as a seed dressing, but, Sam believes it makes more sense to use in-furrow as only a limited amount of product can actually fit on a wheat seed. He also believes putting the fungicides Impact down the tube is more economical than treating granular fertiliser before sowing.  

According to Sam these custom-designed liquid mixes have produced some strong nutrient responses in wheat crops. “While we’ve had three consecutive wet years, we haven’t experienced crop failures like we did in 2016. Our soil nutrient levels have been increasing, and crop yields have been good.” 

When it comes to product compatibility Sam recommends growers carefully consider what they are mixing together and ensure they conduct jar tests.  “We tried a liquid phosphate product which caused a few problems with coagulation. But we learnt from it and we now jar test everything beforehand.”  

Sam says paying attention to using clean water and regular cleaning are also key.

You don’t always have clean water you can use, so you need to constantly check to make sure everything is running right. Regularly flushing the system is important, you can’t leave it and jump back in after a week. It doesn’t take too long and it’s not difficult to check everything is working 100 %.

While Sam crops 1000 ha of wheat, oats, canola and lucerne, grazing makes up the lion’s share of his enterprise running up to 10,000 sheep and 500 cattle on an annual basis.  

This means the cropping and grazing systems need to work together. The cropping rotation plays a pivotal role in the system not only improving soil structure and fertility but any financial benefits from a harvest are used to fund the pasture improvement program. 

Overall Sam is very pleased with the simplicity and quality of his equipment from Liquid Systems and has found them to be an easy company to deal with. “They are all great people and their service is terrific,” Sam said. 

We’ve had some challenges to overcome cropping where we are and Liquid Systems is probably one of the things that we’ve been able to meet that challenge with. Is it the only system on the market? Probably not, but it’s the one that I chose and at the end of the day, I’m extremely happy with it, and would do it again” he said. 

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