Above photo: TWO FOR ONE. Blain, Pa., no-tiller Virgil Gutshall Jr. checks on the machine that he and his father, Virgil Sr., invented that injects liquid hog manure into standing corn and seeds cover crops in the same pass.

A small family-owned hog operation in Pennsylvania is the mastermind behind a rig that sidedresses corn with liquid hog manure and seeds cover crops in one pass — possibly the first machine of its kind in the U.S.

Virgil Gutshall Sr. and his son, Virgil Jr., worked with two equipment dealerships to assemble the unit, which was tested first on their farm and also at the 2015 North American Manure Expo last July in Chambersburg, Pa. The Gutshalls no-till 250 acres of corn, soybeans, small grains and hay at Beaver Ridge Farm near Blain, Pa.

Gutshall Sr. says he was told by representatives of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and State Conservation Commission that the unit had the lowest soil disturbance of all the machines demonstrated at the show.

Dual Tool

The machine consists of a Houle 4,250-gallon tanker spreader with tire spacings set for 30-inch corn. The tanker is equipped with a Houle toolbar and five Yetter Avenger manure injectors for sidedressing hog manure in corn less than knee high.

A Gandy 6212 Orbit-Air seeder is mounted above the toolbar for seeding a cover crop between the 30-inch corn rows. The seed is broadcast between the corn rows and slightly covered, rather than being placed in a single row like some other interseeders in the area, Gutshall Sr. says.

The seed is blown out of the Gandy seeder through tubes outfitted with PVC pipe at the ends, and behind the injectors into the soil. A mix of annual ryegrass, crimson clover and radishes from T.A. Seeds was broadcasted between the rows during the machine’s inaugural run.

Drag chains were used in last year’s version to cover the seed, but they’re being replaced this year with 15-inch-wide rolling baskets from Binkley & Hurst to improve seed-to-soil contact and germination.

“You can adjust the rolling baskets based on soil conditions,” Gutshall Sr. says. “It’s just like seeding alfalfa. You don’t want to bury it, just cover it.”

The whole unit is pulled by a John Deere 7830 tractor outfitted with duals to reduce soil compaction and straddle the rows.

The Right Rate

In the cab, a Deere StarFire 3000 receiver and GreenStar 3-2630 monitor, integrated with a Krohne flow meter, controls the amount of hog manure being applied based on soil tests, manure analysis and crop requirements. The information about applications is transferred from the GreenStar monitor to the farm office computer.

“The economic advantage and pollution reduction comes through utilizing the manure more efficiently, and in an environmentally safe manner, by placing manure near the root zone to feed the soil microbes to grow plants,” Gutshall Sr. says.

Equipment dealers Valley Ag & Turf (Deere) and Cedar Crest Equipment (Houle) worked cooperatively with the Gutshalls to assemble the unit. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) program, administered by the State Conservation Commission, shared part of the project cost.

This spring, the Gutshalls will plant soybeans in 30-inch rows and will be injecting hog manure using this equipment. In the fall, cover crops will be seeded prior to leaf drop.

Spurring Innovation

A retired ag teacher, Gutshall Sr. says he’d like to see this equipment help farmers to increase yields with effective manure use, protect the environment and preserve the soil for future crop production.

“I think it’s important to help farmers by showing a method to utilize manure in an environmentally friendly way,” he says. “If you get hog manure into the ground that eliminates the odor and it provides nutrients for the crop.”