Gregg Sauder has never met a problem he didn't try to solve. These days the president and CEO at 360 Yield Center is taking on some of row crop farming's biggest challenges, and he's making breakthroughs.
That much was clear after this week's visit to the company's 2015 Proving Grounds field day at Tremont, Ill. Nearly 1,500 farmers from across the country came to learn about Sauder's latest inventions and soak in his knowledge. The team showcased its full-season solutions for nitrogen management, including several new products and product concepts for soil sampling and analysis, nitrogen application and residue management.
Nitrogen was a hot topic this year, due to N-depleting heavy rains, leaving some corn stunted and yellow.
"The massive amounts of rain throughout much of the Corn Belt caused farmers to seek ways to better understand how nitrogen was moving in their soil and how much was left in the tank, as well as ways to apply nitrogen later in the season – to corn that desperately needed it," says Sauder.
So it was no surprise that Sauder's new 360 Soilscan got special attention at the Proving Grounds. This is a real-time, in-field soil testing system. Farmers can pull into a field, sample and analyze nitrate nitrogen and make real-time application decisions, eliminating the time delay that comes from sending samples to a lab. The product also includes a pH monitor.
As regulations tighten along with cost considerations, more farmers will be looking to apply only the N they need closer to the time the crop needs it in mid-season. So a product like SoilScan could be a real game changer in the industry.
360 Cross Cut Power Sampler, 360 Yield Patrol
Farmers also got a preview of a strange-looking gadget called 360 Cross Cut Power Sampler. It uses a lightweight chainsaw engine to power a 'soil blade' for easy, automatic soil sampling in the field. Users can get a more consistent soil sample by grabbing soil across the row and mixing the sample during collection.
Another new product featured at Proving Grounds was 360 Yield Patrol, a companion field app for Soilscan that can be used for iPhad and IPhone. This tool imports sampling maps and helps determine where to pull samples through GPS-tagged information. The app will be available on limited release this fall, but will be free next spring for 360 Soilscan users.
"You need a way to determine how much N is in the bank, within minutes, wherever you take the sample," says Sauder. "This system gives you recommended amounts of N to apply mid-season to get good yields. This is better than modeling."
More cool toys
While most of the field day focused on mid-season N management, Sauder and his team of nearly 100 agronomists and engineers are working on some other cool toys as well. The Tremont, Ill., farmer has never been a big fan of anhydrous ammonia, but with corn at $4 per bu. he knows anhydrous will remain a popular form of N for farmers. Too often Sauder sees streaky fields, a common symptom of inaccurate N application. In fact, his studies show variances of 25% or more from knife to knife.
The company has acquired a new NH3 applicator system called 360 Equi-Flow. This system uses a gas separation method and pump pressure to keep anhydrous ammonia in a compressed liquid state to the injection point. It works with high or low rate scenarios and is compatible with nearly every ammonia applicator controller.
"When you apply anhydrous I want it to be deadly even across that bar," he says.
Sauder also discussed the company's Y-Drop technology, which separates mid-season fungicide or nitrogen applications to place them nearer plants. Since corn uses 75% of nitrogen after the V10 stage, a late-season nitrogen application can help you improve yield in ways you haven't been able to before. In one study, Y-drops gave an 8.5 bu. per acre increase in yield compared to nozzles that dropped nitrogen straight down between the rows.
Related: Weekly Fertilizer Review
"The quicker you can flash yellow corn green, the quicker you'll save ear length," he says. "It's all about nitrogen placement in mid-season."
The company is also working on a corn head that will save more corn from slipping through to the ground, and perforate or crimp old corn stalks for faster microbial action. It will be called the 360 Yield Saver Gathering Belt and uses rubber flighting to catch and deliver kernels to the auger.
"Just two lost kernels per square foot of ground steals one bushel per acre," Sauder says.
Sauder's tools will be on display at the upcoming Farm Progress Show. Look for the 360 Yield Center exhibit near John Deere. The show will be held Sept 1-3 at Decatur, Ill.
Continued reading: The benefits of sidedress nitrogen applications on corn