Monday, December 17, 2012

Adapt-N

We learned about a new program from Cornell last week at Farm to Plate that sounds very interesting.  It is called Adapt-N and basically takes field history to cropping practice with real time rainfall measurements to predict Nitrogen needs.  This has huge implications for nitrogen management in corn in the US and around the world.

"Why adaptive nitrogen management?
Appropriate nitrogen management is of key importance in corn production systems because of the high cost of N fertilizer, the relatively large N inputs that are used, and concerns over N pollution of the environment. Currently, N is inefficiently used in corn production, with N recoveries usually lower than 50%. Corn response to N is highly variable, so the economically optimal N rate (EONR) may range from 0 to 225 lb/acre for a field depending on many factors. A number of recent studies show that this variability in EONR is highly influenced by weather, especially early-season rainfall. This uncertainty reduces farm profits and causes potentially high environmental losses to both surface and ground water (nitrate leaching) and to the atmosphere (ammonia volatilization and denitrification).

Adaptive and therefore more precise management of nitrogen on a field-by-field basis leads to higher profits from saving money on fertilizer when less is needed, but maintaining yields with higher inputs when more is needed. At the same time, losses, and therefore pollution of water and greenhouse gas emissions are minimized, because the largest losses happen when fertilizer inputs exceed crop N needs."

Here is what caught my eye;  "More accurately estimating N needs means spending less money on fertilizer that the crop cannot take up. In dry or normal years (about 3 out of 4 years on the average) corn nitrogen needs are actually lower than generalized recommendations. In such years fertilizer rates thus need to be adjusted downward, saving the grower money.

For example, at $0.50/lb of N, reducing the N rate by 50 lb/acre would amount to $25/acre of savings. On the other hand, in years with higher than average spring rainfall, fertilizer rates are adjusted upward to compensate for early season N leaching and denitrification, thus preventing yield and profit losses. For example, in years with heavy spring rains that require higher N rates, preventing a 15 bushel/ac yield reduction through an additional 50 lbs/ac N application results in an about $50/ac increase in profit.

Using the tool also saves time and analysis costs, as there is no need for in-season soil sampling or waiting and paying for soil test results that could be outdated by the time they can be used. For now, there is no cost for using Adapt-N, and you will receive N-recommendations instantaneously, and repeatedly if you want, when it is convenient for you. Also, because Adapt-N uses the new cloud computing model where all software and databases are centrally located on servers, you can even use the tool from the field, or a coffee shop using a smart phone, iPad or other mobile device with internet access. "

This has been done on 50 farms with side by side trials now for 2 years in New York and Iowa.  Why these 2 states?  They both raise corn and have completely different soils and weather.

Impressively, Dr. McNeil said the day the model said his test sites were out of water or zero subsoil moisture the corn turned gray.  Gray is that nasty color corn turned across the midwest this summer when the drought hit hard.  It's the color you never want to see in your crops.  That is a very accurate model that can predict that!

Has anyone here used this model or even heard of it?  Are you interested in using it?

Ed





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