Archive for the ‘front mounted sprayer’ Category

Adding Biology to Our Soil with AgVerra and Tainio Products

Tractor with 3-point hitch rotovator and front-mounted spray tank on forklift attachment

We sprayed biology (beneficial microbes), enzymes, microbe stimulants, and molasses onto our sorghum sudangrass and cowpeas cover crop just before we rotovated it into the soil.  Our rotovating is described here, and our home made spray tank and molasses adventure is described here.  Our soil has very low organic matter and is lacking in earthworms and other signs of soil life.  Because we were already going to the trouble of rotovating, we applied beneficial biology while we were at it.  Our goals are to help the cover crop residue break down quickly so we could plant our winter cover crop soon and also to get good microbes into the soil so the soil can start coming back to life and creating organic matter.

Good residue breakdown with Tainio products in topsoil. 3 weeks after rotovating. Neighbor's east field - 1.9% organic matter, 6.6 pH, 5.6 CEC

We attended a fantastic farm meeting at Keystone Bio Ag near Lancaster, PA this summer.  They were selling many Tainio products, and we purchased Spectrum, a mix of beneficial microbes and Pepzyme Clear, an enzyme product that stimulates microbe reproduction.  The cost for enough to cover 10 acres was $240.   We were also in contact with AgVerra, a company I found through Acres USA.  They offered to include us as one of their project farms.  In return for feedback on their products, we got 50% off.  Whatta deal!  They sent us 20 acres worth of their Stubble Digester product, a mix of microbes that are especially good at breaking down plant residue quickly, and PTM,  a mix of beneficial soil microbes plus goodies like kelp extract, fulvic acid, and plant growth regulators.  The cost for 20 acres worth was $280 (half off) or $14 per acre.

Besides having a hard time keeping our farm cat away from the Spectrum because it smelled like fishy cat food and also curbing my hunger because the Stubble Digester reminded me of crushed oreos, all products were very easy to work with and get into the spray tank.  All products dissolved really well in the tank.

The AgVerra products offered better visibility coming out of the spray tank.  Their Stubble Digester and PTM are jet-black in color and ended up giving the spray mix a slight oily (not greasy) consistency.  This allowed us to see the spray mix cling to the leaves.  It reminded us of vinaigrette dressing!   This is not a huge benefit, but as newbie farmers, it felt good to actually see the product landing where we wanted it, and it helped us verify that our spray tank was working.

We did not speak directly to the Tainio company, but Keystone Bio Ag had good customer service and pointers in using the products.  AgVerra also had excellent customer service – they have nice product information online, and Alfred went above and beyond to help with product selection, suggestions on our home made spray tank, etc.

Good breakdown with AgVerra products, 2.5 weeks after rotovating. Neighbor's west field - 1.5% organic matter, 5.9 pH, 5.0 CEC

We started first with the Tainio products on our neighbor’s east field, which is their best field in terms of soil tilth, organic matter and mineral content.  The soil in this field is much easier to shovel than their other fields.  AgVerra’s products went on our neighbor’s remaining lower-quality fields and on the 2-acre slice of our pasture.  We took these pictures this morning, 2.5 to 3 weeks after rotovating and 6 days after Hurricane Irene’s 10 inches of rain.  Both products seem to be working really well.  The residue has broken down so nicely that we could plant our winter cover crop now, except the soil is too wet for heavy equipment.

I’m excited to see what our winter cover crop looks like this fall and next spring.  Maybe I’ll discern a difference in the two lines of products at that time, although the soil quality difference between the fields might explain any distinction.  We’ll see!


Building a Front-Mounted Boom Sprayer for Your Tractor

This post describes how we built our front mounted boom sprayer and how we adapted to get the job done after making some big mistakes.

Tractor with 3-point hitch rotovator and front-mounted spray tank on forklift attachment

We equipped our tractor with a front mounted boom sprayer to help get biology into our worn-out soil.  We wanted to apply beneficial microbes to our cover crop just before we rotovated (shallow-tilled) it back into the soil.  A tractor with equipment mounted in both the front and back accomplishes two operations in one.  We can spray in the front and rotovate in back (reminds me of the famous mullet hairstyle joke!), all in one pass across the fields.  This saves lots of time and soil compaction.

We were initially willing to purchase a front mounted boom sprayer, but we had an extra hard time finding one!  We looked at the specialized sprayers for orchards, but they were very expensive, and most of the tank capacities were less than 50 gallons.   We also saw front mounted sprayers for huge tractors, but there was no way our tractor could handle a 500-gallon tank.  We were hoping for a tank capacity around 100 gallons.   We saw plenty of 3 point hitch (for the back of the tractor) boom sprayers, but they were expensive too, and we’d end up taking off the 3 point attachments anyway.   

So we had an idea:  our tractor already has a fork lift attachment, so why not strap the tank onto that?  We bought parts – 100-gallon tank ($250), agricultural 1 gallon per minute spray pump ($80), and a boom with nozzles ($180).  We already had other materials:  electrical wire to run the pump switch into the tractor’s cigarette lighter, tie-down straps, flexible water tubing to connect the tank to the boom, etc.  This worked like a champ with water, and we were excited to get going.

Front-mounted spray tank - first design with spray pump connected to boom

The problem came with molasses.  We wanted to add some kind of sugar with the microbes to the tank.  Sugar wakes up the microbes and gets them going.  Molasses is highly recommended because it’s sweet and contains minerals.  What we would give to go back in time and pay more for liquid molasses instead of dry molasses!  Dry molasses is much cheaper ($18 per 50 pound bag), and it’s easy to get at farming supply stores.  It’s an animal feed, and this animal liked it!  It smelled really good and tasted like raisin bran.  We wanted to spray at least 5 pounds of sugar per acre, and the bag said dry molasses had 38% sugar.  We did a test rotovating run and determined each tank would cover just under 2 acres, so we added half a bag (25 pounds) to the tank with the recommended rate of microbes and filled up the tank with water. 

Well, the sprayer nozzles clogged within 5 minutes!  In our studying of the dry molasses bag to find the sugar content, we somehow missed the words in big font that said “22% FIBER”.  Once it was soaked in water, the residue was like oatmeal.  The nozzles couldn’t handle it, and the spray pump also clogged after we took the nozzles off and tried to just pump the mix out through the lines.

We were frustrated!  We were in a good weather window, and lots of rain was predicted to start in the next few days.  We started steeping the molasses in 5 gallon buckets and filtering it through a kitchen colander.  Took forever! 

Second design- note new flexible piping, valve, and pvc on top of tank

We couldn’t take the spray pump completely apart to clean it, so we opted for another route.  We weighed down a sump pump at the bottom of the tank and connected it to a ¾ inch diameter pvc pipe with holes drilled in it.  Since the sump pump put out way more than a gallon per minute, we put a valve in between the pump and the pvc pipe and partially closed it.  More liquid was coming out of the holes closest to the pump, so we wrapped tape around the pvc to partially cover those holes.  The liquid was now coming out pretty evenly along the whole length of the pipe.

Out in the field, the streams coming out of the pvc pipe worked just fine.  Not every leaf got coated, but since microbes multiply, this is probably not a big deal.   

In summary, the molasses fiber mistake cost us about $260.  We can use the boom, but the spray pump is probably a goner.  We will probably get another spray pump and hook it up to the boom for future use, such as spraying foliar fertilizers where we want a fine spray.  But for getting microbes and sugar into the soil, the cheap sump pump and pvc pipe was good enough.  We intend to keep learning – we imagine we need some sort of filter and agitator inside the pump, and we probably need different nozzles.  Unfortunately, we again learned the lesson to not trust the “agricultural” label, such as agricultural nozzles.  These are used to mainly spray pesticides and herbicides (clear liquids), and we’re not in that line of business, so we need completely different components.