Innovation Grant Spotlight: Brian Ahrens

The 2017 Innovation Grant Program is well underway, with the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) investing more than $250,000 in 23 farmer-led projects focused on conservation. Throughout the summer we will be highlighting ongoing projects focused on how to better manage nitrogen and protect water quality.

Today, we are shining a light on the work of Brian Ahrens, who rethought how he applied nitrogen to his crop in order to prevent fertilizer runoff.

Years ago Ahrens applied all of his nitrogen in the fall, followed by weeks of worrying rain would wash it away – both an environmental concern and a detriment to overall yield.

With help from his innovation grant, Ahrens now employs a split application technique where he follows up a partial fall application with another calculated application after the corn has begun growing.

To accurately sidedress his crop in the second application, Ahrens works with his local coop to have soil samples throughout his field analyzed by NitrateNow, which prescribes nitrogen to various parts of his crop based on specific need. Ahrens is able to wait longer in the growing period to apply that specific nitrogen amount thanks to a toolbar that ensures the application makes it past the leaves of his crop and into the soil.

Ahrens’ nitrogen use decreased 25 percent, helping minimize environmental impacts and the impact on his bottom line.

“We are not only saving money, but we are being good stewards of the land,” Ahrens said. “It is a win-win with the benefit to overall water quality.”

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