TSM Research Farm at Catlin, Illinois, USA     March 2001 Articles

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TSM® Research Plots

By Randy Simonson, Ph.D.
Technical Services Manager

The TSM® Research Plots continue to show a high percentage of wins for TSM®. We only had eight plots this year, but TSM® won seven of them.  Over the last nine years we have put out 300 research plots with an 89% win rate.

TSM® Research Plots
YearTotal No.
of Plots

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Starter Fertilizer Increases No-Till Corn Yields

By Randy Simonson, Ph.D.
Technical Services Manager

Several studies in the last few years have shown that starter fertilizer is a must in no-till corn.  Another set of research plots from six locations in Missouri showed yields increased from 9 to 26 bu/acre with the starter, with an average increase of 13 bu/acre.

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TSM® vs. Headstart

By Randy Simonson, Ph.D.
Technical Services Manager

Some growers do not want to use micronutrients.  For those customers we have the Headstart program.  Headstart is essentially the TSM® program without the micronutrients.

In 1999, we compared TSM® to Headstart in corn.  The TSM® program produced 10 more bushels per acre than Headstart.  This year, soybeans were grown in this field.  The TSM® program showed a modest 2.5 bushels per acre advantage over the Headstart program.

1999 TSM® Research Plots
Holden Farm
TreatmentVarietyCorn (bu/acre)
Rep 1Rep 2Rep 3Rep 4Rep 5Rep 6MeanMean
of Varieties
TSM®N7070 Bt167183200183185224190199
HeadstartN7070 Bt159167208193168167177189

2000 TSM® Research Plots
Holden Farm
TreatmentVarietySoybeans (bu/acre)
Rep 1Rep 2Rep 3Rep 4Rep 5Rep 6Mean

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TSM®2 Foliar Fertilizer

By Randy Simonson, Ph.D.
Technical Services Manager

Over the years at the TSM® Research Farm, we have tested a large variety of products that were supposed to increase yields.  However, very few of them have been found to enhance the TSM® program.  The past two years we have been testing a foliar product we have designated TSM®2.  This product is a liquid fertilizer that we have observed to increase yields in corn and soybeans.  The other advantage it has over many products we have tried is that it is relatively inexpensive.  As the table shows, it increases yields and profit for the grower.

1999-2000 TSM®2 Research Results

TSM®2    Approximate Retail Cost: $1.00 per Pint
Corn ($2.00/bu)Soybeans ($5.50/bu)
Yield Increase
Profit Increase
Yield Increase
Profit Increase

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Nitrogen Recommendations

By Randy Simonson, Ph.D.
Technical Services Manager

The nitrogen price for farmers is at an all time high.  Farmers are feeling the pressure to reduce the amount of nitrogen they apply, however, they do not want their yields to suffer, which may cost them more money.

There are many ways to make nitrogen recommendations for a crop.  TSM® considers many variables when making nitrogen recommendations in order to make a recommendation that is closest to the crop need as possible.  TSM® takes into consideration the crop's yield goal, previous crop, soil organic matter, and manure applied.

The previous crop is important because the residue from corn, for example, has a much higher carbon/nitrogen ratio than soybean residue.  Corn residue has a ratio of 60 to 1, which means it actually takes nitrogen to break down the residue. Soybeans on the other hand have a carbon/nitrogen ratio of 15 to 1.  Soybean residue releases nitrogen as it is broken down.  The critical factor is 25 to 1. Residue with a carbon/nitrogen ratio greater than 25 to 1 will require more nitrogen for the microbes to break it down.  When the residue has a carbon/nitrogen ratio less than 25 to 1, plant available nitrogen is released.

Soil organic matter is mineralized throughout the season.  This means that microbes break it down into nutrients, which are useable by the plant.  A soil with a high organic matter is going to release more nitrogen than soils with a low organic matter.  Most nitrogen recommendations do not take this into consideration, but the TSM® program does.

Manure can provide a substantial amount of nitrogen for a crop.  Approximately one half of the total amount of nitrogen in manure is available for a crop the first year.  Injecting manure or incorporating it within 24 hours results in very little nitrogen loss to the air.  However, if the manure is not incorporated, the air nitrogen loss is up to 30%.  Also, Pit-Boss can greatly reduce nitrogen losses from manure pits and lagoons.

Wet weather can increase nitrogen leaching and denitrification.  N-Serve reduces nitrification and the potential for leaching and denitrification.  Agrotain and sulfur coatings can reduce volatilization.  Sidedressing applies the nitrogen at a time when the crop is using it; thus there is less time for loss.

Pre-sidedress nitrate tests are used in some areas to more accurately make nitrogen recommendations.  A nitrate test also can be taken if you think you may have lost some nitrogen due to a wet spring.  Most universities contend that if you have 25 PPM nitrate nitrogen, the crop has enough nitrogen.  If the nitrate test shows less, some nitrogen needs to be applied.

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NUTRISPHERE - SFP's Patented Technology

By Jan Strem, Sales Manager
Specialty Fertilizer Products

  1. Micronutrients are more available under acid conditions.
    1. University trials have long established that acid soils are best for micronutrient availability.
    2. Zinc, iron, copper, boron and manganese require medium to strong acidity for maximum uptake.
    3. The availability of some micronutrients can be increased as much as 1000x by lowering the soil pH by one unit.

  2. SFP micronutrients control the pH around each individual granule.
    1. SFP micronutrients contain a complex of ingredients to control the pH around each individual granule.
    2. Now you can lime your soils for optimum uptake of N, P and K while providing an acid micro environment for the greatest availability of the micronutrients.
    3. The acid environment around SFP micronutrients protects them from fixation, keeping them much more available than sulfate, chelate or oxysulfate products.

  3. SFP micronutrients maintain the soil pH in the optimum range for maximum micronutrient availability.
    1. University research has proven that SFP micronutrients are effective in lowering and maintaining the optimum soil pH around each granule.
    2. On alkaline soils (pH above 7.0), the soil around the SFP granule dropped to below pH 7.0 and stayed there for over 180 days.
    3. When applied to a neutral soil (pH 7.0), the pH next to the SFP granule was maintained below 6.0 for over 180 days.
    4. Unlike conventional oxysulfate, sulfate or chelated products, the patented pending formula in SFP micronutrients provide steady, season long nutrient supply, even when broadcast the fall prior to planting.

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Total Soil Management® Uses Both "Textbook" And "Reality" in making recommendations.

By Kent Durbin, President
TSM® Services, Inc.

So many fertility programs today use only "textbook" principles when making recommendations.  These involve the principles that it takes 9 pounds of P205 to raise the P1 test one pound and 4 pounds of K20 to raise the K test one pound. These are standard principles found in all the Agronomy Handbooks around the country.  I wonder if anyone has ever checked out these principles to see if they work all the time.

I took some tests from our Manure Management Research plots and 25% of the time these principles work.  How would you expect this to affect the results of their recommendations?  Add to this that many of these programs don't call for taking another soil sample for up to 4 years.  Maybe this is the reason that no one (to our knowledge) checks this out.  TSM® gives you a five-year chart so that you can monitor five annual soil tests to see what they are doing.

TSM® also uses some "textbook" principles.  We have to start somewhere.  The big difference is that we bring "reality" into the picture.

  • The first thing we do is test soil every year and revise the goals we used to match the "real" yield.
  • The second thing we do is refigure last year's recommendation to see how much our recommendation was over or under the need.
  • The third thing we do is to adjust the new recommendation to compensate for this.
  • And the fourth thing we do is to use this yearly data in making future goals and predictions.

This puts "reality" into our recommendations.

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Soybean Research Plot

By Randy Simonson, Ph.D.
Technical Services Manager

Bill Steinecker's farm near Van Wert, OH, has been used to compare the TSM® E, TSM® G, Tri-State and Conventional fertilizer programs.  This year the TSM® G treatment yielded slightly higher than TSM® E.  This is interesting in that many times TSM® is accused of not putting on enough fertilizer.  This research, along with our research using the TSM® I budget show that even reduced TSM® budgets can yield well and sometimes are the high-yielding treatment.

2000 TSM® Research Farm
Van Wert, OH

Helena 3410
TreatmentSoybeans (bu/acre)
Rep 1Rep 2Rep 3Rep 4Rep 5Rep 6Mean
TSM E59.055.654.953.551.649.554.0
TSM G56.953.649.754.759.151.554.3

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Hidden Hunger

By Randy Simonson, Ph.D.
Technical Services Manager

Sometimes nutrient shortages in plants are not as apparent as you might think. Often the crop appears to be growing fine, but in reality, it is suffering from a hidden hunger.  Supplying the deficient nutrient is the only way to satisfy a hidden hunger.  Usually this deficient nutrient is a micronutrient.  Farmers often neglect the micronutrients.

Dr. Don Huber, a Purdue University plant pathologist has spent years studying the correlation between micronutrients and diseases.  Nutrition has a big effect on the plant's ability to defend itself from diseases.  Micronutrients help to regulate the plant's physiology and are important for putting up the plant's defenses against the disease.

This year, stalk rots were common and corn was easily blown over.  Stalk rots often come in where the plants are nutritionally weak.

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Puzzle of the Month: "A Lady's Age"

Cressida didn't like to tell her age, so when she was asked, her mother answered for her.  Her mother said, "I'm just seven times as old as she is now.  In twenty years, she'll be just half the age that I will be then."

How old is the clever Cressida?

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The Answer to December's Puzzle!

We appreciate the entries for December's contest, "The Birds".  We had 8 winners on this month's puzzle!

The answer to the puzzle "The Birds" is : When the cars passed, the bird had flown 120 miles.

Congratulations to December's big winners!!  The big winners are:

Anita Sims - Allerton Supply Co., Ridge Farm, IL

Curt Custer - Custer Grain, Garrett, IN

Bert Lengacher - Seldom Rest Farms, Montgomery, IN

John Flood - Fowler Elevator Co., Seymour, IA

Dale Smith - Union Produce Cooperative, Ossian, IA

Barry Steinman - MFA Agri Service, Salisbury, MO

Karen Corle & Tom Garmon - Helena Chemical Co., Liberty Center, IN

Adam Pentycofe - Agway Crop Center, Lyons, NY

Good luck next month!

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Kent's Korner

By Kent Durbin, President
TSM® Services, Inc.

Wouldn't we have to experience it?  The longest cold spell in history.  Why can't we have it like we used to?  Most of the years were pretty much alike years ago.  But not anymore.  We have to have record-breaking something every year.

Everybody indicates that we are in the years of "A & M's" or acquisitions and mergers.  Can you believe that there could be just one company left when all this ends?  Well, probably not likely, but it sure seems like it.  What will this industry look like 5 years from now?

Another incident with CCA this past month that was disturbing.  Do you remember why CCA's came into being?  Fertilizer dealers were cheating the farmer by selling more fertilizer than the farmer needed.  So we needed to put some "professionalism" back into the fertility industry.  You had to pass a college exam to be certified and take an oath of ethics.  The idea being that if you are a CCA, you are honest.  We were participating in the NRCS & USDA Nutrient Management Programs in several counties in Illinois.  We made a nutrient plan for a farmer and found out later that when it was taken to the Soil & Water Conservation office, our recommendation was changed.  Upon further investigation, the person changing our recommendation was not a CCA and felt that they were "above" the level of a CCA.  They felt that since they were in this office, they could do whatever they wanted to.  Having a CCA is supposed to add a value to your services.  It is supposed to bring "honor" to this game.  Evidently the CCA has gone the route everything goes - sadly to say, it's all about money!

My dad, Paul Durbin, started a fertilizer company back in the early fifties.  Farmers bought their fertilizer from him because it was Paul Durbin, not because he had some certification or what have you.  Fertilizer dealers were as different as day and night but honest.  Some did this better and others did other things better.  The farmer knew what he wanted.  Today, the industry is driving itself towards generic fertilizer dealerships.  All you have to have is a CCA.  This makes everybody alike even the good and the bad.

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