1992 - Volume #16, Issue #3, Page #29[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Electricity Fertilizes CropsWhenever Willis Tellefson heads out into fields of knee-high corn around Leland, Ill. with his space-age looking machine, cars back up on the road as people stop to watch. No one's ever seen anything like his ma-chine - with its PVC toolbar and plastic hoods - and no one can figure out what it's supposed to do unless he tells them.
Tellefson's explanation is "shocking" - he uses high-voltage jolts of electricity to fertilize crops, eliminating the need for nitrogen, he says, by allowing plants to capture nitrogen that's already in the air.
"I don't know exactly how it works - I just know, based on yield data gathered over the past 20 years, that it does. I've finally got a production-ready machine that I think could revolutionize American agriculture if I could get it on the market," says Tellefson, an 80-year-old inventor (he invented the successful "Kleen-Lay" egg-laying system for chickens in the late 1940's) who got the idea for his electric fertilizer machine from watching lightning. He felt that some lightning seemed to benefit crops by pulling nitrogen out of the air so he set about trying to duplicate nature with a home-built ma-chine.
Tellefson says agronomists who've been consulted about his machine say it won't work. "They say it can't work but they ignore the evidence I've got that it does," he says. No university has yet put Tellefson's ideas through a scientific test.
Tellefson built a hi-boy tractor from scratch to cant' the all-plastic toolbar, which is fitted with 8 round plastic hoods mounted on a length of PVC tubing. Electricity travels through wires to 1 1/2 in. dia. steel brushes in each hood, positioned about 17 in. above the crop. Electricity passes from the brushes - which never touch the plants - down into the ground through a metal disc that's positioned in the dirt between the two rear tires. The disc grounds the electricity, completing the circuit. A wire runs from the disc back to the machine.
The system, which Tellefson has patented, puts out a 30,000 to 40,000 volt charge that's like the charge off the end of a spark plug. If it touched you, you'd get nothing more than a severe jolt, he says. The system runs off 12-volt batteries.
In recent years Tellefson has tested the machine extensively on local farms by working with farmers who leave anunfertilized strip of crop through a normal field. He runs his machine through when the crop is 12 to 36 in. tall. "In corn, our yields don't vary more than 4 bu. from the corn right next to it that has been fertilized normally with nitrogen. In soybeans, we sometimes see yield increase of as much as 15 percent and in wheat we've experienced increases of 10 percent over adjacent crops. We've also had success with the machine in porn-toes," says Tellefson, noting that, except for fertilizer, the crops are not handled differently in any way.
The entire self-propelled 4-WD machine weighs about 4,000 lbs. and is hydraulically-driven by a 50 hp. gas engine. Travels at speeds up to 6 mph.
Tellefson, who has no formal training in electronics, started laboratory experiments in 1972 and took his first machine to the field in 1976. "Even though there's no visible change in the crop, I think it somehow changes the structure of the crop so it's able to absorb its own nitrogen. That's the only way I can explain the yields we get."
Cost to operate is minimal and the ma-chine uses all simple electric components.
For more information, contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Willis Tellefson, P.O. Box 175, Leland, Ill. 60531 (ph 815 495-3491).
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