Shop Built Sidedressing Tool Brings In-Season Flexibility

Strip-tiller Larry Tombaugh combined an old cultivator, SpikeWheel units and a CDS-John Blue pump into a unit that dispenses nitrogen with low soil disturbance.

Foreseeing a day when the government will simply forbid fall nitrogen applications, Larry Tombaugh hit the shop last winter to get ahead of the game.

The Streator, Ill., strip-tiller and two part-time farm employees built a homemade sidedress applicator by assembling remanufactured SpikeWheel applicators, an old 12-row Glencoe row-crop cultivator and a CDS-John Blue ground-drive pump.

Tombaugh then added a 1,600-gallon tank mounted on an E-Z Trail quad-steer wagon. Then in May, Tombaugh used the applicator to sidedress 20 gallons per acre of 32% and Soil Biotics XL, a liquid nitrogen stabilizer.

After working through some engineering challenges during construction, Tombaugh says the applicator worked very well.

“We really liked the short turning radius with the wagon, the ‘no-brainer’ application with the ground-driven pump, and the SpikeWheel applicators sealing in the product with low disturbance,” says Tombaugh, who strip-tills both corn and soybeans on his farm.

“You can get 38 gallons an acre maximum and we run at about 5 to 5.5 mph.”

Stripped Down. Tombaugh had been applying 200 pounds per acre of anhydrous ammonia in the fall mixed with N-Serve to fertilize his corn crop, but he says it’s clear trends are moving toward split nitrogen applications.


Since changing planters recently to add 2-by-2-inch fertilizer placement, Tombaugh needed a machine to do sidedress applications. He hasn’t liked using knives or high-pressure nozzles and once saw a farmer with SpikeWheel applicators on his planter.

Tombaugh spent $200 to buy the used cultivator and began by stripping off the shovels…

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John Dobberstein

John Dobberstein is senior editor of No-Till Farmer magazine and the e-newsletter Dryland No-TillerHe previously covered agriculture for the Tulsa World and worked for daily newspapers in Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Joseph, Mich. He graduated with a B.A. in journalism and political science from Central Michigan University.

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