Minnesota Corn Growers are funding research efforts to help farmers better manage nitrogen fertilizer

MCR&PC Chair and Clarkfield farmer Doug Albin.

MCR&PC Chair and Clarkfield farmer Doug Albin.

Over the last nine years, Minnesota’s corn farmers have greatly increased their investment in research efforts to use nitrogen fertilizer more efficiently and effectively. Since 2007, 34 projects addressing nitrogen fertilizer management have been supported using funds from Minnesota’s corn check-off, a voluntary one-cent “fee” paid by corn farmers for every bushel sold to market.

Of those 34 projects, 22 are currently active and in progress.

“The goal of our nitrogen fertilizer research is to protect water quality and improve efficiency while maintaining productivity,” said Dr. Paul Meints, Research Director for the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA). “We want to help farmers use nitrogen fertilizer more efficiently and keep it on their field. Increasing efficiency results in better water quality for the entire state and cost-savings for Minnesota farmers.”

MCGA’s annual investments in research efforts total about $4 million annually. More than half of those funds are dedicated to projects related to nitrogen fertilizer management and protecting water quality.

“Water quality has become a hot topic recently, but it’s something we’ve been working on for a long time,” said Doug Albin, a farmer in Clarksfield, Minn., and Chair of the Minnesota Corn Research & Promotion Council (MCR&PC). The MCR&PC oversees the investment of Minnesota’s corn check-off funds and works in close partnership with MCGA.

“We challenge our researchers to really push the envelope and come up with improved practices that benefit water quality,” Albin said.

The majority of corn-farmer supported research into nitrogen fertilizer management is conducted by the University of Minnesota (U of M). Projects address everything from reducing nitrogen fertilizer lost through tile drainage, applying nitrogen fertilizer during the growing season to reduce losses and using cover crops to increase nitrogen efficiency. MCGA also supports a nutrient management faculty position at the U of M, as well as a U of M Extension specialist who specializes in nutrient management and agricultural drainage education.

Noah Hultgren

Noah Hultgren

Other nitrogen fertilizer-focused initiatives supported by Minnesota corn farmers include Discovery Farms, the annual Minnesota Nutrient Management conference and “Nitrogen Smart,” a new series of educational sessions focused on helping famers more effectively manage nitrogen fertilizer.

“We’re dialed in on this issue and we’re working every day to continuously improve,” said Noah Hultgren, a farmer in Raymond, Minn., and MCGA President.

More information on research efforts supported by Minnesota Corn farmers can be found at mncorn.org/research, in MCGA’s “Research Summary” and in MCGA’s “Research Directory.” Projects specifically related to nitrogen are highlighted in MCGA’s “Nitrogen Initiatives” publication.

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