Brian Watkins stands with his Progressive 60-foot toolbar and 24 Yetter 2987 Series High Speed Magnum fertilizer coulters.

Modified toolbar accomplishes goals of stewardship and profit

Ask anyone around Kenton about an innovative farm operation in the area and they will likely mention Watkins Farms.

For Brian Watkins, that “ahead of the curve” mentality is forged by a series of objectives, including profit, yield, maintaining long-term sustainability, taking care of the soils and being environmentally sound.

For years, Watkins Farms has been broadcasting fertilizer in the fall, but recently decided that it would be best for them to work those nutrients directly below the surface. A major factor in his thinking and philosophy is the issue of soluble phosphorous that is affecting Ohio’s water quality.

 “Some farmers will choose to do some fall strip tillage and we felt like that didn’t fit what we wanted,” Watkins said. “Soil conditions in the fall are sometimes not conducive to that method because it is too wet and the benefits wouldn’t be there come spring. We needed a zero soil disturbance solution to getting the nutrients directly into the soil.”

To address this challenge, Watkins came up with a creative way to apply dry fertilizer. Using a Progressive 60-foot toolbar and 24 Yetter 2987 Series High Speed Magnum fertilizer coulters, Watkins created a way to work phosphorus and potassium into fields in the fall, and do it in the way he envisioned — leaving the soil alone.

“I was familiar with the placement unit itself more in terms of anhydrous, but the idea of doing it with dry fertilizer just kind of popped in my head,” Watkins said. “I know a lot of people have been doing it with more of a tillage aspect. I wasn’t so sure about the tillage, but I was sure about the idea of getting nutrients below the surface.”


The process of putting this unique piece of equipment together all started with picking the right toolbar, as the Yetter units aren’t sold with a toolbar that is 60 feet wide. Watkins chose the Progressive toolbar because of its flat fold design, which helps when it comes to the amount of tubing involved with dry fertilizer.


With no template to work from, except for the one in his head, it was a matter of trial and error. After a few minor adjustments, fall application was a success.


For this spring, Watkins changed out the tubes to use this new, innovative tool and tested it out to apply anhydrous to see how much more beneficial it could be compared to knives. That, Watkins acknowledges, has been thought of by large ag manufacturers already, but since the unit he invented worked for P and K 6 months ago, it was worth a shot with NH3.


“So far, so good,” Watkins said as he rolled over a great looking field of corn planted in early May. 


Watkins will be the first to admit that, although he has numerous ideas to improve equipment or to modify a certain aspect of his operation, he “makes a lot of mistakes in the process,” but quickly figures out what works and what doesn’t.


“Usually the practices you do that are environmentally sound have a positive economic component to them,” Watkins said. “We are always looking for ideas to combine those very important factors.”


Needless to say, Progressive and Yetter, along with many area farmers, are all curious about Watkins’ results with his new fangled contraption. For Watkins, it is just another way to do things better for his farm operation, his land and the environment.


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