NACHURS DISTRIBUTOR SPOTLIGHT
Duane Messman of Messman Fertilizer Service- Nebraska
Duane Messman was born in Strang, NE. Upon graduation from Bruning High School at age 17 in 1944, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Following discharge in 1947, Duane attended the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Later he returned home and farmed near Bruning. In 1954 Duane married Joanne Dill from Belvidere, NE and settled on the family farm. Seeking off season employment, Duane custom applied anhydrous ammonia for area farmers through the locally owned elevator. In 1964, the decision was made to enter the retail fertilizer business full time and Messman Fertilizer Service was formed. Originally, retail sales consisted of anhydrous ammonia and a new fertility product; fluid fertilizer. Working under the guidance of Allied Chemical Corp. located in Omaha, company professionals helped Duane and other innovative individuals bring liquid fertilizer into Nebraska. Original products included UAN (Golden Uran) and ammonium polyphosphate (PolyN/ 10-34-0). Under the Allied Chemical banner, Duane was one of the first dealerships in NE. to market 10-34-0; as a blend mix component and as a standalone starter fertilizer. In 1966, the addition of an outside mixer allowed for early prescription blending of NPK+micronutrient formulations used to meet soil deficiencies indicated by soil testing. From the beginning, Duane was highly optimistic about the flexibility, efficiency and convenience that fluid fertilizers would offer the farmer. Early on, Duane also foresaw the importance of starter fertilizers and the impact they would make in terms of high yield production even when the university didn’t.
In 1970, participating in a partnership with Allied Chemical, Messman Fertilizer sponsored at Bruning, one of the first custom applicator demonstration shows in the Midwest featuring new breaking technology referred to as the self propelled “floatation” applicator. Following the show, Duane purchased his first floater, a Tryco model, and added a second the following year. “Floaters” and the services they would provide permitted rapid expansion for Messman Fertilizer. A larger indoor mixing system was added the next year featuring newly available bulk chemical mixing capabilities. Duane ventured into retail/wholesale NPK blended solution fertilizer production.
In 1976, confident that fluids were the future, Duane made the decision to go “all liquid”, an unconventional decision at the time. With custom application as the backbone of the business, Duane was an early innovator of the “weed and feed” concept. All-in-one broadcast spreading freed up time for the farmer while allowing greater precision in costly blended fertility/ herbicide application. In 1978, Duane was instrumental in the promotion of the liquid lime concept; application of pulverized limestone and water or UAN. This product provided the farmer with a fast acting lime source and also spread out the application year well into the fall. During this time, Duane was nominated and served on the board of directors of the National Fluid Fertilizer Association (NFSA).
In 1979, Duane participated in a herbicide promotion program and became one the first owners in NE. of a Buffalo No-Till Slot Planter. Duane recognized that no-till would provide the dryland farmer a way to increase soil moisture and to reduce moisture loss during a dry growing season. This program also created more sprayable acres prior to no-till planting and also produced a dryland crop rotation system featuring a new program called “chemical fallow”. As sometimes happens with early innovation, no-till was, as they say, “before its time”. No-till was not attractive to the farmer and nor well accepted. However, this work did provide a glimpse into the future for what would eventually become well accepted as minimum till.
Always searching for ways to stretch the spraying season, spread labor costs and improve fertilizer efficiency, Duane worked extensively with agronomists (particularly Don Johnson) from Arcadian (formally Allied Chemical) in foliar fertilization and other new innovations. This work provided many positive results using various nutrient combinations and forms. Foliar feeding was and continues to be a promising technology.
In the 1980’s, rising costs of money and inputs forced many re-evaluations. Efforts to reduce costs created noticeable switching from broadcast to banding of inputs. Duane was an early advocate of split applications of fertility to better coincide with plant need. This included early adoption of side-dress application of UAN with the cultivator as well as combining center pivot irrigation with UAN and UAN+S application known as fertigation. Planter applied mixed nutrient starter fertilizer application was coming back as an attempt to reduce costs by combining operations and reducing field trips. As they returned to planter application, farmers quickly became dissatisfied with the use of 2x2 row placement attachments. Duane was one of the first to suggest applying 10-34-0 on the seed as a “pop-up” starter instead of using higher salt NPK mixes as a way to reduce planter-soil difficulties. Warm, moist soils of middle May fairly assured rapid germination and minimal seed damage.
Ridge till and min-till planting systems were rapidly adopted in the 1990’s as a way to further reduce labor, fuel and input costs. Lack of tillage and avoidance of ridge disturbance quickly reduced “floated acres”. Month earlier planting starts taking advantage of fuller season hybrids heightened dependence on starter fertilizer. In 1990, Duane began a relationship with Alpine Plant Foods, ending a long search for suitable “seed safe, highly available, mixed NPK starter fertilizers.” Messman Fertilizer continues this association today with Nachurs-Alpine Solutions allowing for continued study in high value, highly available-tissue safe foliar solutions, row applied calcium products, soybean safe mixed nutrient starters an tissue/seed safe extended release nitrogen.
Messman Fertilizer Service, Inc. is in its 48th year as a family business. At age 84, Duane continues to work full time overlooking the operation and searching for new technologies. Wife Joanne, retired as an RN, continues her work as vice-president and book keeper for the business. Oldest son Dave joined the business fulltime in 1979. Dave’s two children attend UN-L and work near Lincoln. Son Monte and wife Lynn reside with their two children in Scottsdale, AZ. Daughter Ellen and husband Dave reside with their two children in Kansas City, MO. Duane and Joanne celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 2004. Duane completed his 60th year as a member of the American Legion.
Duane thanks the Nebraska Agri-Business Association for this recognition and thanks them for the work they perform for its members and for the industry. Messman Fertilizer Service has been a long member of the association. Duane proudly served on the Association Board and as Board Chairman in 1979-1980.
We thank Messman Fertilizer Service for their continued support!
For more information on becoming a NACHURS Distributor, please contact:
NACHURS ALPINE SOLUTIONS
421 Leader Street
Marion, Ohio 43302
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