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A 30-bushel Corn No-till Problem-Solver

Northeast prototype 'Subsurfer' promises to be a Chesapeake Bay watershed solution.

John Vogel, Editor, American Agriculturist

August 26, 2011

2 Min Read

Surface-applied dry dairy manure and poultry litter are environmentally problematic particularly in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The nutrients are prone to run-off, especially in no-till fields.

That may be changing though. Over the last three years, Penn State and University of Maryland research on subsurface poultry litter applications found at least a 30-bushel per acre yield advantage compared to surface-applied litter. "Subsurface applications of litter reflect much greater nutrient efficiency," confirms Penn State Agronomist Doug Beegle.


That led USDA's Agricultural Research Service scientists to design a no-till applicator built by Barron & Brothers, International, of Cornelia, Ga. With further refinement, more of the aptly named "Subsurfer" tools are being built for on-farm research by Cornell, Penn State, University of Delaware, University of Maryland and Virginia Tech.

But the once-revised model (shown here) belongs to University of Maryland Eastern Shore research team, to be shared with University of Delaware. A total of five of the machines will be field-tested in Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. The Subsurfer is expected to get its second showing at the Precision Ag Machinery Day, on Tuesday at Denton, Md.

Injector specs

The pictured model, built on BBI's Endurance spreader tandem-wheel running gear, was built for demonstrations and transport, says Beegle. Commercial models, if and when they become available, are likely to be larger.  Hopper capacities on the Endurance spreaders range from 160 to 658 cubic feet.


The hopper was redesigned with screw augers in the bed instead of a conveyor chain. And the augers had to be enlarged to prevent bridging of the dry materials. Powered by hydraulics, the machine can inject materials via variable-rate technology.

Dry manure materials are fed into the front-mounted planter disk openers following no-till coulters. Shields were added to keep the materials from blowing away. Planter closing wheels seal in the manure/litter.

About the Author(s)

John Vogel

Editor, American Agriculturist

For more than 38 years, John Vogel has been a Farm Progress editor writing for farmers from the Dakota prairies to the Eastern shores. Since 1985, he's been the editor of American Agriculturist – successor of three other Northeast magazines.

Raised on a grain and beef farm, he double-majored in Animal Science and Ag Journalism at Iowa State. His passion for helping farmers and farm management skills led to his family farm's first 209-bushel corn yield average in 1989.

John's personal and professional missions are an integral part of American Agriculturist's mission: To anticipate and explore tomorrow's farming needs and encourage positive change to keep family, profit and pride in farming.

John co-founded Pennsylvania Farm Link, a non-profit dedicated to helping young farmers start farming. It was responsible for creating three innovative state-supported low-interest loan programs and two "Farms for the Future" conferences.

His publications have received countless awards, including the 2000 Folio "Gold Award" for editorial excellence, the 2001 and 2008 National Association of Ag Journalists' Mackiewicz Award, several American Agricultural Editors' "Oscars" plus many ag media awards from the New York State Agricultural Society.

Vogel is a three-time winner of the Northeast Farm Communicators' Farm Communicator of the Year award. He's a National 4-H Foundation Distinguished Alumni and an honorary member of Alpha Zeta, and board member of Christian Farmers Outreach.

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