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Podcast Ep. 185 Exact Shot

19 Jan 2023  •  Tony Kramer

You can find past podcast episodes and view show notes by visiting our Podcast website

Have precision ag questions? We have the answers. Find a specific channel dedicated to answering your precision technology questions: Precision Ag Answers. 

Read the entire transcript from the latest episode.

Before we dive into talking about John Deere ExactShot, I wanted to do just a brief history lesson on fertilizer itself and then some of the equipment or technology that led up to ExactShot. Why ExactShot is going to be such a great addition to the John Deere equipment and technology portfolio. Fertilizer history lesson, so agriculture has been around since the beginning of time. We've been growing plants, growing crops, making food, all of that stuff from the beginning of time.

Now, fertilizer too has been around for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. Back then when agriculture became a thing and fertilizer was being utilized, they didn't understand what fertilizer was doing, how it was benefiting the crop. They go back to the beginning, manure. Animal manure was the common or the only source of fertilizer. Again, they didn't really understand what was happening. They didn't understand the soil and the nutrient sciences of why this was helping, but they just knew that, hey, if we spread fertilizer on our soils, it would help our plants grow better, stronger, more robust, and have a great bountiful harvest.

Now, moving fast forward to about the 18th century, it was also learned that crushed-up bones would also give some of those same nutrients or some of those same effects of manure. There again, the farmers or agriculturists at that time were utilizing crushed-up bones to benefit the crop or crop production. Now, again, still at this time in the 18th century, they didn't fully understand the characteristics of the fertilizer, the soil, all of that type of stuff.

Moving forward from there we go into the 19th century. 19th century is when soil sciences and plant nutrition were finally starting to be understood. When that happened, or part of that happening is there was a gentleman that you may have heard the name, you may not know what his claim to fame was or anything there, but there was a German scientist by the name of Justus von Leibig. He was the one to determine that nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are essential for plant growth, and that holds true today.

These three nutrients are still considered to be the fundamental nutrients of crop production. Justus von Leibig, he did a lot of research, a lot of studying. He was also the one to determine the law of minimum, Leibig's law. He determined that the maximum plant growth is not determined by total available nutrients, it's actually determined by the least available nutrients. What is our limiting factor? What is our least available nutrient or least available factor that we're dealing with?

That is what's going to determine maximum plant growth or maximum yield. He was the one to determine that, the law of minimum or Leibig's law. Now fast forwarding from there into the early 20th century, we get in the realm of World War II. Now, of course, World War II was going on, that was very very big in US or world history, but one of the other things that happened was the start of which was very big for agriculture, the start of chemical fertilizers. During World War II, they needed a way to manufacture munitions or explosives. Those that aren't familiar with this nitrogen is a fundamental ingredient for explosives. What was done is these nitrogen facilities, or nitrogen production plants were put up and they were utilizing gas as the raw material for nitrogen production, that allowed the United States to create these munitions for World War II.

World War II ends. They have all of these nitrogen production plants all over the place, and we also at that time were in a food shortage. World War II ends, we now need to restore the food supply in both Europe and the United States. That is when the mass production of chemical fertilizer started. Today, that is still what we know today so the learnings of Justus von Liebig in the 19th century, and then utilizing chemical fertilizers in the 20th century, that is where it all started or what we know of fertility management, and nutrient management today is where we're at.

To add on top of that, so that's just the fertilizer, the actual product portion of it, over the last, say, 20 to 30 years the technological age or this age of technology is really what has advanced fertility practices all over the world.

Now, that brings in the next conversation of how we apply these fertilizers or how they've been applied over the years, which will then lead us into talking about ExactShot. Going all the way back to the beginning, we talk about the manure, and the crushed-up bones, things like that.

Broadcast application, manure spreaders to what we know today as spinner spreaders, things like that is how fertilizers were placed into the fields. Whether it was manure, it was those crushed-up bones or it was these dry fertilizers of sorts. They were just spread and either left or they were tilled into the soils. Fast forwarding from there, we had more of the bringing us into the 20th century of chemical fertilizers or mechanically produced fertilizers you could say.

We have more granular fertilizers, two-by-two systems ran across one article that was discussing a five-by-five application system so two-by-two system, two inches to the side, two inches below. I can only imagine a five by five would be five inches to the side and five inches below. What we're doing with that is, and the key benefits of this fertilizer is to help the plant grow. Plants need nutrients, uses von Leibig determiner, and we needed a place to apply those.

We had the broadcast application, then we moved into planter-applied fertilizers. Now yes, we can make the argument. Is a planner applied fertilizer necessary or should we just do the broadcast and whatever? I like to look at a starter fertilizer, which is where your planner-applied fertilizers come into play. I look at a starter fertilizer, some may call it a pop-up fertilizer things like that.

I look at it as our cup of coffee in the morning, coffee, Red Bull, Monster, tea, whatever your poison of choices in the morning it gives us that perk that get up and go, and that's really what starter fertilizer is. Now, yes, we can broadcast apply fertilizers or mass apply fertilizers across the entire field. I look at that as your everyday vitamin.

Those nutrients are in the field and they're going to benefit that crop through its entire growing process. Whereas a starter fertilizer, whether it's in a two-by-two application or an infer application, we're looking that morning cup of coffee or that morning red bowl or whatever it may be. So we have those. Then we shifted to liquid fertilizers. Liquid fertilizers gave us the ability to do more stuff in furrow. Right there in the seed trench, right with the seed. Started out we had ground drive pumps. Just a basic pump that was ground driven either by a contact wheel or the wheel itself was running on the ground. That turned the pump. The pump then pushed product down the tubes or out of the tank, down the tubes, and into the furrow. Then we moved into hydraulic or electric pumps, and that gave us the ability to control it better.

Whether we were doing a variable rate application, or whatever that may be with the ground drive pump we set our rate and we just went. If we went slow the pump would slow down, if we went faster, the pump would speed up. Now that being said, those systems also needed orifices on the tube itself to create back pressure, otherwise, the pump would not work. Same with our electric and hydraulic pumps we needed orifices, or we do still today.

Electric and hydraulic pumps are still very popular. We still are utilizing those on some of these more advanced technology systems, but we still need that orifice valve to create back pressure in the system, and it limits us.

What John Deere did in 2020, if you remember, they reintroduced ExactRate. We took that John Deere Exact Apply nozzle body off of the sprayer, which is a pulse with modulation product, and they put it on the planter.

If you go back to episode 123, back in what was it, July of 2020, you can learn a little bit more about ExactRate, some of the more specifics of it. John Deere took the Exact Apply nozzle body, put it on the planter, and that allowed us to control the flow. We start talking about these high-speed planters or more productive planters, and you're varying your speed anywhere from, let's say five miles an hour up to 10 miles an hour.

The traditional electric or hydraulic or even ground drive pump does not have the ability to span that speed gap. Again, like I said, you need an orifice valve to create back pressure that orifice isn't big enough, it's not going to allow the right rate to get out at higher speeds. 2020 incomes ExactRate gives us the ability to have curve compensation, gives us the ability to have individual nozzle control or individual nozzle shutoff also gave us the ability to span that speed gap.

Now, incomes January 5th, 2023 John Deere introduced ExactShot. This is what you've all came for hopefully, the little history lesson was interesting as well, but I want to talk about ExactShot. What is ExactShot? What ExactShot is doing is piggybacking on top of that ExactRate fertilizer system. In 2020, we had ExactRate, 2023, and moving forward we're now going to have ExactShot. ExactShot is just that, it is a shot of fertilizer directly on the seed.

Now, if you figure a corn seed or planting at let's say 32, 34,000 seeds an acre, the distance between your seeds is going to be, oh, what is it, six or seven inches, right in that area. There's a portion of seed trench that does not have a seed, but we're still today, prior to ExactShot, we're still applying. We're just applying a standard, let's say five gallons or six gallons an acre of starter fertilizer through that entire trench. Now, we could look at ExactShot in couple of different ways.

Starter fertilizer, what are the benefits to utilizing it? Well, one, we know that in cold wet conditions, the seed needs that pick me up back to that cup of coffee or that Monster in the morning, it needs that pick me up, or are we trying to increase yields? Are we wanting to get that seed germinated, emerged, and up and growing as quick as we can to limit any yield loss or yield reduction? The question we ask is, do we need fertilizer in that gap of let's say four inches? What we can do with ExactShot is we can put, or we can concentrate the fertilizer right on the seed. The way that I like to look at it is more from an economic standpoint. We may not see, depending on the concentration of fertilizer you use, what type of fertilizer you use, what your ground conditions are, what are we dealing with at planting. You may or may not see a yield increase, but I like to look more at the economic side of ExactShot.

We can apply a two-inch band of fertilizer right on top of the seed and not see yield loss, or yield reduction. We are saving. If we take, say, our seeds are spaced at six inches, we're applying a two-inch band. We are not applying fertilizer to four inches of that seed trench. That amount of fertilizer is being saved. We are able to reduce our fertilizer inputs or our fertilizer application by 60% or whatever that number is, 70%, with only applying to that two-inch band and not seeing a yield loss or a yield reduction.

That is huge. We all know the amount of the cost of inputs these days. We talk about nutrient management and soil health and stewardship of the land, and all of that type of stuff. If we can reduce the amount of fertilizer that we're putting on, we concentrate it right on top of the seed. We're not seeing yield loss, we're using less inputs. We're saving money. All this comes into play of how we grow our crops, what we know today of nutrient management and our soil management or soil health, and everything we're doing.

We're always trying to get better. We're always trying to grow bigger, stronger crops, but we can also grow big, strong crops by utilizing less money or less inputs or whatever that may be. I'm really excited. There's not a whole lot of information out on ExactShot at the moment. John Deere, over the coming months, will release more information, more availability stuff. We'll learn pricing, structure, all of that type of stuff down the road here.

I wanted to get on here and talk about this audio equipment as well as myself. We got the opportunity to help John Deere test this product. It is so cool to see in the field, so cool to see working. I'm very excited to see this out to the masses to get this on planters all over the countryside and start to see the benefits of ExactShot and what we can do with this technology. Again, like I said, we know we can have that argument of is in-furrow fertilizer worth it. Do I need to utilize it on my farm? Every farm is going to be different.

ExactShot might not be the product for you on your farm, on your operation, but I do know it will benefit others in other geographical locations, with other ground conditions, soil types, weather, all of that type of stuff. Hopefully, this was exciting. Hopefully, this was interesting to you. I'm very excited about this product. I was excited to record this podcast and share it all with you today. Hopefully, this was another great one and you learned something from it. [music]

Please take a moment to subscribe to this podcast if you haven't already, you can subscribe to the show on the many different podcasting apps that we're streaming this out to, such as Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Stitcher, SoundCloud, as well as many others. While you're out there, drop us a review. We'd love to hear what you think about the show. Lastly, make sure to follow RDO Equipment Company on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and catch all of our latest videos on YouTube. You can also follow me on Twitter at RDOTorneyK.

Tony Kramer

Tony Kramer is an Agronomist at RDO Equipment Co. and host of the Agriculture Technology podcast. To contact Tony with questions or about being a guest on the podcast, find him on Twitter at @RDOTonyK.

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