Pictured Above: THE REEL DEAL. The CMA Silver Series reel directs manure from the source to the applicator. The reel remains stationary as the applicator makes two passes in the field. The tractor pulling the reel then advances to make the next two passes.

Applying manure to no-tilled fields can be a tough business, as it’s not always easy to do it without compacting or tearing up the ground. Rain patterns and new fertilizer application rules have also conspired to shorten the window of available days for manure to be applied.

But a family of no-tillers in southwestern Ohio has come up with a solution. David Alig and his brothers Greg and Rick, who no-till 1,800 acres of corn, soybeans, winter wheat and hay in Fort Recovery, Ohio, designed and built a machine that sidedresses liquid manure into standing corn and soybeans on 30-inch rows. 

The Continuous Manure Applicator (CMA) is a reel and injector with a patented swivel arm that pulls the 5½-inch hard hose away from the rig and incorporates the manure with an applicator up to 62½ feet wide. Pulled by a tractor, the CMA carries up to a half mile of hose, eliminating the damage and soil compaction that comes with driving over the same path repeatedly when filling and refilling heavy tankers. 

The Aligs built the machine and have the patents on it, and Courtland, Ontario-based Cadman Power Equipment makes and distributes the rigs through its dealer network.

Newfangled Technology

Alig says the CMA enables farmers to apply manure to crops before, after and now during the crop cycle, until the plants reach 3-4 feet tall.

When the applicator gets to the end of the field opposite the hose-reel, the tractor turns around and travels back down the field, applying manure to another 62½-foot strip. As the tractor turns, the swing arm swivels to the side of the toolbar, which keeps the hose in the same row it was pulled out on.

HOSE STAYS PUT. The Cadman Continuous Manure Applicator (CMA) pulls up to half a mile of hose behind the applicator. When the CMA turns, the swivel arm swings to the side, allowing the hose to stay in the same row it was pulled out on, and the hose is re-wound onto the rig.

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The four-wheel-drive CMA reel and steering is controlled remotely from the applicator tractor cab. While the applicator is completing his return trip, the remote automatically moves the CMA forward another 60-125 feet in order to start another pass.

Manure is pumped right from the manure source to the CMA and row crop injector, and then injected directly into the ground. This eliminates the chance of nutrient runoff, helping to keep watersheds clear of contamination. Application rates go up to 1,500 gallons per minute and the operating speed, depending on the desired rate, is 1.5-3 mph. 

Alig says they’ve sidedressed corn as tall as waist high with the CMA and it worked, but ideally it should be done when corn is just out of the ground. In recent years they used it in waist-high soybeans in early August, and despite some crop damage, the manure-applied beans yielded 10% more than beans without added manure. 

The company says the reduction in compaction from using the CMA can increase yields by 7-14%. Another advantage of the CMA system, Alig says, is that growers can apply manure when the crop is actively growing and therefore using the nutrients so the manure would be less likely to run off.  

“Using this machine lets us continue to no-till, use all our manure, and do it in an environmentally friendly way while putting it in the ground when the crop needs it,” Alig says. 

Alig says the yield boost he’s seen from sidedressing manure in standing crops is about 10% higher than his standard commercial fertilizer application. 

There are four different row units available and each applies manure to an 8-inch-wide strip. “The next day there is almost no odor in the field,” Alig says. “You can put covering discs on the row units but our experience has been that we don’t need it.

“After we’re done applying, 20 minutes later we can walk out in the field — or even right behind the machine — and there are no puddles. That little worked strip, which is 7-8 inches wide, sucks the manure up and pulls it into the soil.”

Ideally, most growers will use this machine after heavy spring rains have passed, “so the chances of having a runoff event is a lot less than before planting corn,” he notes. “We take 100% nitrogen credit when we do it this way. You can’t do that if you put manure out there before planting or in the fall.”

Alig says the CMA takes at least a 250-horsepower tractor, but the effectiveness has more to do with the weight and the tires than the horsepower itself.

More In-Crop Results

Researchers have noted before that rain patterns in recent years have reduced the number of days available for both field work and the land application of livestock manure. 

New nutrient application rules involving suitable weather forecasts for manure application, and the need for well-established growing crops for winter manure application, have also reduced the number of days available for manure to be land applied, says Glen Arnold, Ohio State University Extension Field Specialist. 

Ohio State University Extension has conducted manure research on growing crops for several years in an effort to make better use of the available manure nutrients and add additional days for manure application. 

Incorporating manure into growing corn can boost crop yields, reduce nutrient losses, and give livestock producers or commercial manure applicators another window of time to apply manure to farm fields, says Arnold.

A manure research trial (see Table 1) was conducted over 5 years at the Northwest Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center’s Hoytville station. The swine manure application rate was 5,000 gallons per acre to get 200 units of N, and the dairy manure application rate was 13,577 gallons per acre to get 130 units of N. 

MANURE INCORPORATED. In a 5-year study by Ohio State University, incorporated manure treatments produced higher yields than incorporated 28% UAN or surface-applied manure treatments with corn. Incorporation can result in less nitrogen (N) loss, less odor and can reduce the loss of phosphorus (P) from fields.

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The dairy treatments received additional N as incorporated 28% UAN just prior to the manure application to reach the 200-pound N goal. 

Pre-emergent applications of 28% UAN, swine manure or dairy manure were made within 5 days of corn planting. Post-emergent applications of 28% UAN, swine manure and dairy manure were made at the V3 stage in corn. 

Manure applications were made with a 2,250-gallon tanker and Dietrich toolbar with sweeps. Incorporated manure was placed at a depth of 5 inches. Surface manure was applied by using the Dietrich toolbar held just above ground level.

Stand populations were approximately 31,000 plants per acre across all treatments. The 2011, 2012 and 2014 growing seasons experienced moderate to severe drought conditions and the crop in the manure treatments appeared to benefit from the moisture contained in the manure, Arnold says.

The incorporated manure treatments produced higher yields than the 28% UAN and the surface-applied manure treatments. This is probably due to less N being lost when the manure was incorporated. Incorporation can result in less N loss, less odor, and can reduce the loss of phosphorus (P) from fields.

Dragging it Out

In 2014, a drag hose treatment was tested in Ohio to determine how much stand damage and potential yield loss may occur from the V1-V5 stage. A 6-inch diameter drag hose filled with water was pulled across each plot twice — going in opposite directions — at corn growth stages V1-V5. The plot was replicated four times in a randomized block design. 

The results of this 5-year study showed that corn could be sidedressed with liquid manure using a drag hose up to growth stage V4 without a yield loss. More than 60% of the corn plants were snapped off at the V5 stage, and the plants that regrew typically did not produce a reasonable ear of grain.

Harrod Farms in Darke County, Ohio, used a drag hose to apply swine finishing manure to their corn fields in the 2014-2017 growing seasons with great success. The corn was generally at the V3 stage of growth when the manure was incorporated as a sidedress application, although it was just spiking the first year in 2014.

In these tests, the manure treatments averaged 14.8 bushels per acre more than the 28% UAN treatments. They incorporated approximately 6,500 gallons of swine finishing manure per acre to provide all the sidedress N. 

The fields also received 10 gallons per acre of 28% UAN as row starter. Harrod Farms plants their corn fields at an angle to make the drag hose work. This way a hose humper and second tractor are not needed.

Table 2 shows the nutrient value of swine manure used to sidedress corn. In summary, it indicates Harrod Farms’ swine finishing manure is an almost perfect phosphorus balance for a two-year corn and soybean rotation. The potash balance is also close.

ON TARGET NUTRIENTS. Using new suggested crop removal targets, swine manure has shown to provide almost the perfect amount of phosphorus and potash at Harrod Farms over a 2-year period.

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