HarvestersSave fertiliser with preci­sion appli­ca­tion

Use less fertiliser and achieve the same high yields? Contractor Christoph Hante has been using strip till appli­ca­tion success­fully for more than 10 years now. He is a pioneer in Germany when it comes to this type of in-soil fertil­i­sa­tion.

Christoph Hante is a farmer and contractor through and through. “When I was a schoolboy, I preferred to work in the fields, so I left a few home­work assign­ments undone every time,” he laughs. While training as a farmer, he was already working as a driver at his parents’ contracting company, and quickly discov­ered his love for hand­i­work and tinkering.

In 2019, he took over contracting company Hante Agrarser­vice GmbH, as well as the family farm. He is restruc­turing these together with his father Hein­rich Hante: “With my moti­va­tion and exper­tise in the tech­nical field, we decided to give up the 1,000-head pig farm. Instead, we wanted to concen­trate more on the contractor part, and work on our unique selling propo­si­tion; liquid manure spreading with the strip till.”

„No mineral fertiliser anymore“

Farmer and contractor Christoph Hante about in-soil fertil­i­sa­tion with strip till

Tinkerer instead of theo­rist

For Mr Hante, the story of the strip till process began as far back as 2012. Because 60ha of the Hantes’ fields are in a water protec­tion area, he keeps in close contact with the local water­works and is working on reducing nitrate leaching into the ground­water. “The easiest way is to apply less nitrates – but we don’t want to lose yield either. This means that we have to apply the fertiliser more effi­ciently.”

We asked ourselves how we can reduce nitrate leaching into ground­water, without losing yields.

Christoph Hante

Then, at Agritech­nica, there came a flash of inspi­ra­tion: Kuhn presented the Striger strip till. Combining in-soil fertil­i­sa­tion –with strip tillage could help spread slurry effi­ciently and avoid losses. “Most of the people that we spoke to said it would be too diffi­cult or too time-consuming,” says Mr Hante. “That really moti­vated me to keep working on this concept.”

Success across the board

Ten years later, Mr Hante has achieved series produc­tion with his modi­fied Striger. The most impor­tant adjust­ment along the way was offset­ting the frame by exactly 37.5cm so the wheels drive between, and not over the seed rows. “The fact that we don’t drive over the rows was certainly one of the reasons behind our rapid success. The results can be seen imme­di­ately in the uniform emer­gence and devel­op­ment of the plants.”

Mr Hante has offset the frame by 37.5cm. This way, the tractor tyres do not drive over the seed row as usual, which harms the plants, as can be seen in the picture.

Mr Hante’s strip till works as follows: The eight-row Kuhn Striger hangs behind a Briri pump tanker filled with liquid manure. At a row spacing of 75cm, the soil is loos­ened to a width of around 20cm and a depth of 25cm. A liquid manure strip is then injected at a depth of 12-15cm. The seed, usually maize, is later planted in the same strip and then can feed on the liquid manure. “Basi­cally, we use the strip till like a drill – only using a slurry tanker.”

Thanks to AutoPath, each seed is laid on the liquid manure strip to an accu­racy of 3cm.

Preci­sion leads to achieving the goal

For sowing to be successful, preci­sion is of partic­ular impor­tance. The maize seed must be placed exactly on the liquid manure strip in order to achieve good yields. That is why Mr Hante has been using John Deere’s AutoPath GPS-controlled steering system since 2021. It records the track of the strip till when spreading liquid manure and uses this infor­ma­tion again when planting maize with the drill. This means each seed is then laid on the liquid manure strip to an accu­racy of 3cm. The recorded lane is also used when hoeing with the boulder pickaxe. Mr Hante can there­fore drive and hoe right between the rows – without risking yields.

With AutoPath, we record the track of the strip till when spreading liquid manure and apply it again when laying maize.

Christoph Hante

As a result, the plants are better supplied with nutri­ents; the maize stays green longer and the cob and flag don’t grow apart as quickly. “This means that the time for polli­na­tion is longer.” The reduced tillage also reduces water loss from the soil, there is less erosion, and the ground between the seed rows is much easier to drive on in autumn.

The differ­ence between maize fertilised with the strip till method and maize fertilised with other methods is visible to the naked eye.

According to Mr Hante, farms with pigs and biogas plants partic­u­larly benefit from the strip till process. “Farms that weigh the grain report back higher yields to us, even though they use less mineral fertiliser. Biogas plants measure a higher nutrient content in strip till maize – with one customer reporting 0.2 to 0.3 mega­joules.”

The biggest advan­tage of the strip till is its effi­ciency. Farmers save on liquid manure, of which they can spread les – and two-thirds of Mr Hantes’ customers can now completely do without in-soil mineral fertiliser, without impacting yields.

The facts and figures clearly speak in favor of the strip till method, espe­cially when planting maize. “Never­the­less, in agri­cul­ture, feeling counts more for many people,” says Mr Hante. “Even if there is a great number on the scales at the end, many say: ‘Yes, but the corn from the neigh­bours still looked better’.”

That’s why he would like to see even more open­ness on the part of customers: “Anyone who wants to use the strip till process has to plan more. I hope that addi­tional farmers will take the trouble in the future as the legal require­ments (over envi­ron­mental protec­tion) are increasing anyway, and everyone bene­fits from the effi­ciency of the process.” Mr Hante also has one wish for John Deere: “It would be great if the combi­na­tion of tractor, liquid manure spreader and strip till could work the areas completely autonomously.”

Hante & Hante Agrar

Christoph Hante is a partner in Hante Agrarser­vice GmbH. In 2022, the family-run contracting company had six perma­nent employees and between 15 and 20 tempo­rary workers during the season. The Hante Agrarser­vice fleet includes nine trac­tors, three combines, two forage harvesters and a baler from John Deere, as well as three strip tills, all of which are equipped with the AutoPath. The contractor’s focus is on liquid manure fertil­i­sa­tion, but services also include grain and maize harvesting, tillage, silage and straw collec­tion.