VanQuaethem Farms is located in Southwestern Ontario, just a short drive from the North Shore of Lake Erie. The countryside throughout Southwestern Ontario is dotted with vibrant small towns. In many areas, including near the VanQuaethem’s farm, fields are often broken into irregularly shaped parcels by forests and meandering streams that head toward the Great Lakes.
Curtis and Joe VanQuaethem farm with their father growing mainly corn. However, they rotate soybeans, wheat, rye, and some processing vegetables.
The VanQuaethem’s began strip-tillage and controlled traffic farming some years ago as a means of saving time and improving soil health.
“Stip-till, for us, eliminates a bunch of tillage passes. Instead of working corn stalks in the fall and then working twice in the spring, we make one pass and put all our nutrients down in the strip. We also conserve moisture by not tilling the whole ground and only working what we need to,”
said Joe VanQuaethem.
When asked if strip-till has improved their soil quality, Curtis VanQuaethem said,
“Yes. We have very sandy soils, and over time we’ve seen the soil’s increase its moisture-holding capacity. Also, we’ve seen more consistency over the entire field with less erosion from wind and rain.”
With strip-till being the VanQuaethem’s primary means of fertilizer application for row crops, they use a steerable cart to feed their 16-row strip-till bar. They also apply granular starter from their 16-row corn planter and use a steerable cart for that as well. In 2018, the VanQuaethem’s needed a new cart and purchased a Salford PathFinder steerable cart with a Valmar ST-8 applicator. VanQuaethem’s were so impressed with their new applicator they upgraded their other steerable cart to a Salford PathFinder with the latest Salford ST-10 applicator.
Joe and Curtis noted ease of use was a significant gain for the Salford cart over their previous application solution. For example, they found the Salford metering could handle lower quality fertilizer that is dusty or chunky and continue to meter product accurately without plugging, even in humid conditions. The metering systems are visible from the tractor cab, and if the meters become plugged or caked with fertilizer, you can clean them without emptying the tanks. The tanks empty evenly, so the system maintains even application from row to row and can apply another 1,000 to 1,500 pounds of fertilizer before refilling. This user-friendly design has allowed more operators in VanQuaethem’s operation to use the machine without special training. Joe summed it up best by saying, “We can’t always be in all the systems, so we need it to be easy, and the Salford carts seem to be the easiest for that.”
The Salford ST-10 applicator has 4 section control and allows for configurations to feed between 8 and 24 rows without row splitters. The 16 row Salford applicator has four rows per section. When asked about the section control system,
“We farm around a lot of ravines, a lot of cut-up fields, nothing is really square. So, in order to even be able to shut 4 or 8 rows off if your last pass is only eight rows – the ability to only run eight rows, or whatever how many you need, in a mile-long field, adds up to a lot of fertilizer savings.”
Said Joe. Curtis added,
“Our strip-till bar is 16 rows, 30-inch spacing. We usually go between 7-8.5mph. We try to get to that speed. We find that it does not lag. We don’t get any yellow spots going into rows or out of rows.” Which further highlights the metering responsiveness benefits to their crops overall.
In the future, VanQuathem’s have considered using the split bins to apply cover crops with their Salford PathFinder while they apply fertilizer. The metering rolls are gentle and accurate enough to handle seed. Curtis concluded,
“I would also say with the Salford, we’re not scared to do a little bit more with them. So versatility, we might hook it up to like a cover crop system. So blow fertilizer, maybe some rye seed down… We’re more confident in using it, so we’re probably going to use it for more things later because we know that. So, it opens up a lot of opportunities if you have the cart. You know it works. You feel confident maybe to step it up and use it for different things.”