Having taken my fair share of taxis and Uber — either out of convenience or necessity — I’ve almost always spent rides contemplating the cost vs. the convenience of the service.
I’ll admit that there are certain circumstances that mandate the investment, or it makes economic sense. But all things being equal, I prefer the control and flexibility of driving my own vehicle to and from a destination. I think the same philosophy also applies when choosing between ownership of a sprayer or custom application services.
I’ve visited with plenty of strip-tillers who appreciate the simplicity of hiring a custom applicator to handle spraying responsibilities. It’s one less thing to worry about during a continuously busy season.
Other farmers invest in their own sprayer, seeing opportunity for long-term advantages than can offset the upfront cost. Stillman Valley, Ill., strip-tiller Cade Bushnell took this approach on his 1,300-acre corn and soybean operation, purchasing a Hagie sprayer after crunching the numbers on the cost of custom application vs. his fertility program goals.
“The custom application rate in our area is about $8 per acre, which might be a little cheap, but for my strip-tilled corn I do a burndown, a herbicide application early post, and a post-emergence application with Roundup — and I also use a lot of glyphosate and do a late season nitrogen (N) application on about 750 acres,” he says. “That costs about $24,000, and I also do some foliar N application when we have a wet spring.”
Bushnell says one of the fastest returns he’s gotten from the sprayer investment is being able to make late-season foliar applications to treat wet spots in cornfields that are under N stress. While the application won’t help break any yield records, it can “take 60 bushel corn and make it 150,” Bushnell says.
“I’ll spend $20 an acre to make an extra 90 bushels of corn,” he says. “But you have to be able to do it on a timely basis. The real advantage of owning a sprayer is controlling when and what time of day I make those applications.”
Hear more from Cade Bushnell on the advantages of owning a sprayer along with additional insights on maintaining a productive corn-on-corn strip-till system in our latest Strip-Till Farmer podcast episode and share with me your spraying preferences at (262) 777-2441, or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.