A dribble bar could be used to apply manure in many situations, such as into a wheat crop at the same time that commercial nitrogen is applied, or before planting in canola, corn or soybeans. Photo contributed.
Spreading liquid manure has always been challenging for farmers. Spraying it on fields is smelly and not terribly consistent. This spreading method can also cause crop damage and excessive run-off. Now however, much improved spreading for liquid manure is now available to Ontario farmers, thanks to Alma-based Husky Farm Equipment. In cooperation with Germany-based Vogelsang, the company has introduced the dribble bar, along with its many benefits.
The dribble bar spreader originates in Europe, where there is widespread restriction of manure application outside the growing season. This spurred the development of new technology such as dribble bars. A dribble bar is just as it sounds – a bar-like system that dribbles manure at low pressure onto the ground below the plant leaves, allowing a greater amount to be applied with more accuracy, less runoff and less crop injury and less odour. “As application accuracy improves and environmental issues continue, combined with opportunities with GIS/GPS, there is more interest in dribble bar and other in-crop application technology,” notes Christine Brown, who has recently studied the dribble bar in her position as the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) field crops program lead.
Vogelsang dribble bar technology for dragline units was demonstrated at the North American Manure Expo in 2012. In 2013, Walter and Sharon Grose (owners of Husky Farm Equipment) decided to investigate it further, traveling to Germany to meet with Vogelsang and tour its factory. “This tour assured the fact that the tanker-mounted units could work on Canadian tankers,” Walter Grose says. “These units are widely used in Europe because of legislation and Ontario is cultivating an interest to pre-empt any legislation.”
Brown explains that the dribble bar (as well as other European equipment such as Veenhuis shallow injection technology) offers a tool bar with more rows, which allows for application at ground level in seven to 10-inch spacings with no splash.
“At 10-inch row spacing, there are about 60 dribble hoses on the toolbar which means that at 4,000 gallons per acre, there would be about 70 to 75 gallons/row/acre,” she explains. “Less volume per row means less risk of runoff, and when applied in forage or pasture – assuming soil conditions are fit – there would be faster infiltration.”
The dribble bar also offers greater nutrient application accuracy.
“The distribution system is fine-tuned, so that the amount from each row is more consistent than current splash plate technology,” Brown says. “This makes the manure application more like fertilizer (although there will still be some variation in manure nutrient concentration), but the nutrients are placed closer to where a growing crop can utilize them.”
Although injection into the soil would be even better, Brown notes that it take more time and more horsepower. She also states that if manure is applied to forages or to other growing crops, the system that works best is one that gets many acres covered in a day with less wheel track (similar to sprayer technology). She says a dribble bar could be used to apply manure in many situations, such as into a wheat crop at the same time that commercial nitrogen is applied, or before planting in canola, corn or soybeans. Brown says a dribble bar would also be effective in applying manure to ground with planted canola, corn (up to about the six leaf stage) or soybeans. She believes it would also be very suitable in edible beans before or just after planting, forage crops after harvest (with potentially up to three application opportunities) and in pastures (especially where rotational grazing has been established).
Lastly, Brown believes dribble bars would also work well after cereal harvest, where manure could be slurry-seeded with cover crops (or the cover crops could be established after application).
“Where large fields in corn/soy rotation have erosion concerns, grassed tram lines could be established for less compaction damage and more frequent in-crop application opportunities,” she adds. “For custom applicators, technology that allows manure application to occur during the growing season will allow more days for application in a year and will help to reduce the stress associated with full manure storage when the weather doesn’t cooperate, such as late harvest or wet conditions or early winter conditions.”
Having the manure dribbled at low pressure into the soil a little at a time (and not sprayed in the air) obviously means substantially lower odor levels, but this has not been studied in Ontario at this point. However, Grose notes Vogelsang has done extensive research on how
the dribble bar reduces odor, as well as how it boosts crop yield with its improved placement of nutrients and application timing.
The way the dribble bar prevents manure from touching the plant canopy also means reduced crop burn and ammonia loss.
“We have done ammonia loss studies in forages with dosimeter tubes that consistently show the ammonia loss is highest where the application rate is high (where manure puddles) and takes longer to infiltrate [which is something that tend not to happen with a dribble bar],” Brown explains. “There still could be ammonia burn [with a dribble bar] if the manure applied is a concentrated liquid poultry or hog manure applied at a high rate. But generally this type of manure is not recommended for forage crops that would be the most susceptible to ammonia burn.”
She adds that salt/ammonia injury could be an issue with slurry-seeded cover crops, especially when planted into dry soils.
Attachment and use
The Vogelsang dribble bar can be mounted on any manure spreader, notes Grose, although small modifications may be needed. The amount of modification needed for spreaders over 10 years old would not be cost-effective. In terms of speed, Grose confirms the Vogelsang dribble bar is faster than an injector unit.
“Most injectors are 12 feet wide to fit road width and must travel many times up and down the field,” he explains. “The dribble bar is much wider and can cover more ground.”
The time it takes to fold out the boom might be 20 seconds out and 30 seconds in, and Grose adds the dribble bar does not allow any manure to dribble on the road as it tips up for road travel.
During application, the Vogelsang dribble bar uses a rotary distributor to pulse distribute the manure across the width of the unit.
“When a triangle field is encountered, one side can be shut off or retracted to transport position to eliminate double coverage,” Grose says. “When an area in the field is encountered that has enough nitrogen, the booms can be turned on or off for precision coverage. Each nozzle gets the same amount of coverage whether one side is turned on or off.”
Husky Farm Equipment Limited and Farm and Food Care will be using a tanker with a 50-foot Vogelsang dribble all over Ontario.
“It will have demo days and farm show exposure,” Grose says. “The highlight of the year will be the demonstration at the North American Manure Expo in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, in July 2015.”
In terms of studies, Brown is hopeful she may be able to initiate some, but that depends on time and funding opportunities.”
See the dribble bar applicator in action here: http://youtu.be/ZSXdf0LQY1o