Bridging Crop Nutrition Science And Technology

The future seemed to draw nearer for the 1,600-plus attendees of the co-located InfoAg and International Precision Agriculture conferences in St. Louis, MO, in early August. It’s a future where data plays an even bigger role in agriculture than it does today, especially in crop nutrition and its management. With the mixing of the traditional academic research community of the Precision Conference and the traditional industry community of InfoAg, there was an enhanced opportunity for the data of science and the data of practice to be bridged. That bridge is clearly under construction with more work needed to truly connect the two communities — a topic for expansion at another time.

Here we summarize the critical messages delivered by International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI) staff this year. Their presentations, along with others from the conferences, can be viewed at infoag.org/Program/Speakers.

N Fertilizer Decisions

The downside of the recent information explosion is that advisors and growers are becoming inundated with data to the point that it sometimes inhibits the decision-making process rather than enhancing it. A session led by Steve Phillips addressed how an already sound, science-based nitrogen (N) fertilizer management strategy can be enhanced by incorporating precision ag technologies. The session consisted of a three-part case study of a Virginia farm that tracked the N fertilizer decision making process from the scientific principles that underlie 4R nutrient stewardship, through the analytical processes and data management at the farm advisory level, to the on-farm decisions, evaluation, and adaptive management strategies employed by the grower.

The first point made was that the basic questions regarding N fertilizer management have been the same for centuries: What source do I apply, what rate do I apply, what time in the growing season do I apply it, and what placement method do I use? What has changed is our understanding that these questions must be answered simultaneously as source, rate, time, and place are not independent of one another. This fact results in a complex, site-specific recommendation; however, the framework of 4R Nutrient Stewardship allows us to make N fertilizer decisions that adhere to the science-based fundamentals that drive sound agronomic practices while incorporating all the technology and data-driven solutions that producers have access to.

Jim Wallace, Owner and Chief Consultant for Agritek, then discussed how the company uses multiple layers of on-farm soil and crop data to develop management zones for variable-rate seeding and N fertilizer applications. The grower was already changing N rates based on soil type, but grid sampling and multiple years of yield data identified variation within the soil zones that were able to be delineated. The more intensive data analyses also led to plant population changes within zones that affected yield potentials and subsequently N fertilizer recommendations. The result was a corn yield increase of nearly 30% over the two previous corn crops and even though N fertilizer rates increased, the yield boost was great enough to result in a higher N use efficiency.

Virginia Farmer Paul Davis then completed the session by discussing how a combination of university research and technology have enhanced his operation. In cooperation with researchers from Virginia Tech, Davis has conducted on farm trials to determine the biomass production and N uptake of various cover crops, which led to his incorporation of a vetch cover in front of his corn crop that he estimates saves him 70 to 80 pounds of N per acre in a good year. He has also made changes in his N timing and placement strategy based on university research and moved to a more intensive starter and in-season approach. He adopted the GreenSeeker technology in 2007, again based on research conducted on his farm, and has seen his N use efficiency increase by approximately 7%.

P Fertilizer Decisions

Today’s society demands more sustainable management of phosphorus (P). People want to know the full range of its impacts on their economic, environmental and social well-being. Decisions regarding the right source, rate, time and place of P application need to take all these impacts into account. Tom Bruulsema joined with Illinois crop producer and 4R Advocate Alan Madison and ag retailer Malcolm Stambaugh to communicate how partners can work together to optimize nutrient use efficiency and return on fertilizer investment with minimal adverse effects on the environment. The critical message was that 4R P fertilizer decisions made between ag retailers and producers positively impact water quality as well as yield and profit.

Soil Testing

Scott Murrell reported on the summary of soil fertility levels in North America that IPNI does every five years. The 2015 summary captured information on 7.5 million soil samples. Submissions from laboratories indicate that use of soil testing has increased substantially since 2010. The 2015 summary gives a more complete evaluation of the components of soil fertility than previous summaries, providing information about P, potassium (K), soil acidity (pH), magnesium (Mg), sulfur (S), zinc (Zn), and chloride (Cl- ). North American agriculture relies heavily on soil testing to assess soil fertility and guide future nutrient management decisions. This summary demonstrates the extreme variability of fertility levels, and that they do indeed change over time. Producers who have soils that have not been sampled recently have much to gain by getting into the regular practice of soil sampling. The increase in sample volume since 2005 and again since 2010 is a positive sign that more farmers and advisers are taking advantage of this valuable tool.

Suites Of 4R

Defining and monitoring progress in reaching goals has become a critical need for contemporary farms. Cliff Snyder reported on an IPNI-The Fertilizer Instutite-sponsored project aimed to improve the nitrous oxide (N2O) estimator in the Field to Market (The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture) Fieldprint Calculator. The project’s aim is to better align the estimator with current U.S. N management science, and to make those emissions estimates more accurate for individual fields.

Instead of a single management practice or reliance on a reduced fertilizer N rate alone to achieve environmental and crop production goals improved suites of 4R N management are more likely to help farmers reach economic, social, and environmental sustainability goals. Examples of Intermediate and Advanced/Emerging 4R N management practices — which were unanimously agreed upon by leading national university and government N management and N2O scientists for major corn, soybean, and wheat production systems were illustrated. Anticipated reductions of N2O emissions were shown. According to current research, using improved suites of 4R N management can help protect and raise crop yields while lowering the net residual N balance (fertilizer and/or manure N input + legume N fixation — crop harvest N removal), and thereby reduce the loss of N2O-N to the atmosphere.

Precision agriculture professionals can play a significant role in advancing and documenting the implementation of suites of 4R N management. As more farmers enlist the assistance of such skilled professionals and crop advisers with implementation of site-specific suites of 4R N management, we can expect to get more of the applied N into the crop while simultaneously reducing the risks and amounts of N loss to the environment.

Leave a Reply

Fertilizer Stories

Corn Field
FertilizerProtect Applied Manure Straight From the Manure Pit to the Field
August 10, 2017
Farmers who use liquid manure to fertilize corn crops can now mix Instinct nitrogen stabilizer in their pit for easy Read More
Corn-Irrigation
Crop InputsNitrogen: Why More Later May Be Better
August 2, 2017
The fact that new corn hybrids require an ever-increasing yield potential, and therefore a growing appetite for nitrogen and other Read More
Darin Lickfeldt Verdesian In Field
Crop InputsVerdesian: Sustainability Goes Hand in Hand with Profits
July 25, 2017
Sustainability is a hot topic in agriculture these days. And while measuring sustainability and its on-farm impact can seem difficult Read More
Soil soybean closeup
FertilizerThe 4Rs and Potassium
July 17, 2017
Are we meeting crop K needs? Using the 4R nutrient stewardship approach of selecting the right source at the right Read More
Trending Articles
Iowa waterways
Stewardship2,600 Iowa Farmers Commit $8.7 Million to Water Quality Practices
August 9, 2017
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey announced Tuesday that a record number of Iowa farmers signed up to install nutrient Read More
Greg Musson, Gar Tootelian
CropLife 100Cause of Gar Tootelian Fire Under Investigation
August 7, 2017
Over one hundred firefighters and equipment responded to a four-alarm shop fire at the Gar Tootelian, Inc. (GAR) facility in Read More
Rob Versprille
ManagementCeres Solutions, North Central Co-op Merger to Bring New Opportunities for Indiana, Michigan Farmers
August 1, 2017
More than 40,000 customers and almost 9,000 Indiana and Michigan farmers will begin doing business with the new Ceres Solutions Read More
CPS-Norwood-and-Dupont-reps
Eric SfiligojA Message to Ag Retailers: Do Tell Your Good Stories
July 26, 2017
As the daughter of a peanut farmer, Krysta Harden, Chief Sustainability Officer for DuPont Crop Protection, understands the importance ag Read More
Tim Hassinger Dow AgroSciences President and CEO
Crop InputsDow’s Tim Hassinger Named President, CEO of Lindsay Corp.
July 24, 2017
Lindsay Corp. has  announced the appointment of Timothy Hassinger as president and CEO and a member of its board of Read More
Stewardship‘Gonna Fly Now’ with Environmental Respect
July 20, 2017
One of the most memorable moments in movie history occurred in the Academy Award-winning 1976 film “Rocky.” Haven gotten his Read More
Latest News
RoGator RG1300B AGCO
EquipmentAGCO Opens Nominations for 12th Annual Operator of the …
August 18, 2017
AGCO Corp. has announced the opening of nominations for AGCO Application Equipment’s 12th Annual Operator of the Year. The award Read More
ManagementTravels, Mergers, and CropLife 100 Updates
August 18, 2017
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss recent trips they’ve taken, the latest news on market consolidation, and the 2017 Read More
Corn Seed
Seed/BiotechSeed Innovations Benefit All of the Seed Industry
August 17, 2017
Innovations from throughout the seed industry help address many of the economic, environmental and health issues we face as a Read More
SpreadersGVM to Introduce New Prowler at MAGIE
August 17, 2017
The newest Prowler in GVM’s line-up will be introduced next week at the Midwest Ag Industries Expo (MAGIE), August 23 Read More
AcreEdge bag
Seed/BiotechLandus Cooperative’s AcreEdge Seed Brand Gears Up for 2…
August 17, 2017
Growers in more than 26 Iowa and Minnesota counties are seeing field signs with a new brand name at end Read More
Engenia soybeans
ManagementCorn and Soybean Yield Forecasts Larger than Expected
August 17, 2017
The USDA’s August Crop Production report contained larger-than-expected forecasts for the 2017 U.S. corn and soybean crops. At 169.5 bushels Read More
ManagementU.S. Ag Secretary Introduces SCORE
August 17, 2017
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue signed a new agreement to support new and beginning farmers. On August 5, Perdue joined Read More
CHS-FFA-Minnesota
CropLife 100CHS and FFA: A Homerun Partnership
August 17, 2017
CHS hosted the Minnesota FFA for its annual FFA night at CHS Field. FFA students, educators and CHS leadership enjoyed Read More
Greg Musson, Gar Tootelian
CropLife 100Gar Tootelian Foundation Donates Half Million Dollars t…
August 16, 2017
Students at Immanuel Elementary are looking forward to the first day of school for two reasons this year. One, they Read More
Water Drainage
StewardshipNew System Could Remove Two Water Pollutants from Ag Fi…
August 14, 2017
Algae blooms in the Gulf of Mexico use up the majority of the oxygen in the water, leading to massive Read More
Eric SfiligojThe Top 10 Crop Protection Companies, Post-Mega Mergers
August 14, 2017
Everyone loves a good Top 10 list. In fact, some prominent celebrities such as David Letterman spent much of their Read More
ManagementThe DuPont-Granular Deal, Dicamba Update, and Upcoming …
August 11, 2017
Matthew Grassi joins Paul Schrimpf for the second week in a row to talk about DuPont’s acquisition of Granular, as Read More
Soybeans weeds
HerbicidesOngoing Evaluation Key to Controlling Weeds, Improving …
August 10, 2017
As the sun bears down on record U.S. soybean acres this August, farmers keep their eyes on their fields to Read More
Young Corn Plants
Seed/BiotechMycogen Seeds Offers Novel Product to Battle Pythium, O…
August 10, 2017
After a season plagued by seedling diseases caused by cool, wet soils at planting, farmers have a new option to Read More
Corn Field
FertilizerProtect Applied Manure Straight From the Manure Pit to …
August 10, 2017
Farmers who use liquid manure to fertilize corn crops can now mix Instinct nitrogen stabilizer in their pit for easy Read More
Iowa waterways
Stewardship2,600 Iowa Farmers Commit $8.7 Million to Water Quality…
August 9, 2017
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey announced Tuesday that a record number of Iowa farmers signed up to install nutrient Read More
Natives-First-Purple_Prairie_Clover
Seed/BiotechLa Crosse Seed Continues Focus on Soil and Water Conser…
August 9, 2017
La Crosse Seed is doing its part to lead communication to ag retailers across the country on the importance of Read More
HerbicidesAg Secretary Perdue Comments on Dicamba Issue
August 9, 2017
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue indicated to reporters this week that he would like to see the industry work out a Read More