Fluid fertilizer used to hit high yields

Sean Kennedy, of Corop, VIC, with a fluid fertilizer tank located on a lateral irrigator which is used to apply customised SLTEC® nutrients to the corn crop.

The use of customised fluid fertilizer from SLTEC® has helped produce high yields from tomatoes and corn on the Kennedy property at Corop, in the Goulburn Valley region of Victoria.

Sean Kennedy said they conducted leaf and soil tests on the crops and paddocks and then had fluid fertilizer options tailor-made from the results.

“Generally tissue samples are taken on the Monday, we have the results by Thursday and the fluid fertilizer is delivered Friday or Monday,” he said.

The tests could indicate a need for elements such as zinc, molybdenum or others and these are added to the nitrogen base to help ensure the crop receives its complete nutritional needs at each stage of its development.

Mr Kennedy said they had been using fluid fertilizer on their crops for a number of seasons and initially turned to it for the ease of use.

“We are still learning what we can do with fluids,” he said.  “It is a critical tool to push yields to the limit in crops such as corn.”

“There is such quick uptake and a quick response from the plant.”

A target of 18 tonnes of corn grain per hectare is the aim each season and has been achieved regularly in recent years.

“We have been averaging 18 tonnes per hectare across the area with some paddocks yielding 19 or 20 tonnes per hectare.”

A base granular fertilizer is used at the start of the season before switching to fluids throughout the growing cycle of the corn crop.

During the 2015/16 season a decision was made to continue applying the fluid fertilizer to the corn later than in other years to try to lift yields even further.

“We are pushing the boundaries to see where we can get to,” Mr Kennedy said.

For tomatoes the aim of the nutrition program is to produce high yielding quality fruit for the local processing market where it is diced, crushed or turned into paste.

Each pump station on the property has two dedicated 32,000 litre SLTEC® tanks and the fluid fertilizer is delivered into the water as it is being irrigated.

On a very long paddock, containing a lateral irrigator, the fluid fertilizer tank has been installed on the machine and is filled from 10,000 litre tanks at both ends of the field.

“It is terrific having the tanks on-farm,” Mr Kennedy said.  “And if we are running short it is just a phone call to SLTEC® and it is not long until a truck is turning up.”

Last season the corn was planted in the last week of September, although normally it is sown from the second week of October.

Tomatoes have a similar planting window and areas are generally sown once a week through October and November.

Mr Kennedy said they also used fluid fertilizer as an option in their winter crops with UAN applied to the crop in late winter or early spring to encourage extra growth at that critical time.

He said they would continue to work with fluid fertilizers to improve their cropping programs and were considering fluid injection as an option with the air seeder at planting.

Steve Thomas, from SLTEC®, and Sean Kennedy, inspect corn grown with fluid fertilizer which has been customised based on soil and leaf sample tests.