Tests Underway with Climate Nitrogen Advisor

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Nitrogen is mobile in air, water or soil. Because nitrogen moves, it’s a challenge for farmers to keep everything in balance while maintaining profitability. That’s probably why we hear so much about “precise nitrogen management.”

It seems like everyday we hear about a different way to best manage nitrogen. Universities have moved from the long accustomed Yield Goal approach to Maximum Return to Nitrogen (MRTN), which links corn and nitrogen prices to calculate the best nitrogen rate based on years of data. The objective is to provide a yield increase that will pay for the cost of the nitrogen. Another nitrogen management method involves applying some nitrogen before planting to get the corn started. Then soil or plant tissue samples are taken to determine plant nitrogen levels and to estimate how much nitrogen will be available in the soil for the remainder of the season.

Yet another nitrogen management tool is sensor technology, which uses artificial light to capture on-the-go leaf reflectance and translates that into values to calculate a product rate for on the-go nitrogen side-dress applications. The Nitrogen Advisor tool available through the Climate FieldView™ (CFV) platform combines extensive weather data with rainfall and temperature information to understand leaching, volatilization or other ways nitrogen may be lost based on timing of application, product being applied, and rates being applied. This sounds very familiar to the 4 R’s of nutrient management: Right Rate, Right Source, Right Placement, and Right Timing.

The CFV Nitrogen Advisor is based on a model that has been extensively researched throughout the Midwest. Last winter the Iowa Soybean Association released its research, which included replicated trials using the CFV Nitrogen Advisor. Cooperating farmers across Iowa ran the CFV Nitrogen Advisor and used their own personal nitrogen rates as the check. They compared their rates with both adding and decreasing rates of 40 lbs/acre of nitrogen. Nitrogen Advisor topped 7 of the 10 trials, and in some of these trials, it led to $20/acre profit! Where Nitrogen Advisor wasn’t on top, it was within $10/acre in terms of profit of the top performer.

When profit margins are tight, we’re all extremely interested in getting the best return on our investment. Nitrogen is where we spend most of our fertility budget; we’re experimenting on the Latham Research Farm with the Climate Nitrogen Advisor this season. I invite you to attend our fall field day in Alexander where you will be able to walk through the plot. We’ll also be sharing research results at our post-harvest meetings this fall.