As greater focus is placed on nutrient reduction strategies, identifying better methods of nitrogen management becomes more critical than ever. Relying on some of the standard historical nitrogen management practices will no longer be an options as they may not be accepted as a best management practice moving forward. An impulsive reaction may be to assume that nitrogen rates will have to be drastically reduced, but what is really needed is to just look at managing nitrogen differently.
Research Category: Innovation Grants
With so many options on the market of nitrogen models and tools, it is a natural tendency to avid change. There is a sense of security to continue with management strategies that have been regularly used in the past. This is especially true if there seems to be no major issues or yield loss. The problem with this is the expectations and demand that are coming down the road for those in the ag industry based on the proposed regulations,
New technologies and big data are pushing precision agriculture advancements at a rapid pace, to a point that it is hard to make adjustments and keep up. While not all of these technologies and tools work in every situation, being receptive to adapting new management strategies can be critical to the success of a farm operation. Some of these tools can help identify areas of an operation where efficiencies can be improved. One area that is currently a primary focus is new methods of nitrogen management.
While manure is a great source of many nutrients when growing corn, the natural variability of nutrient concentrations can create challenge. The nutrient management plan used on these fields should be different than fields utilizing strictly commercial fertilizer. This is especially true when making a nitrogen plan. Nitrogen is highly variable within all soils due to its chemistry. BY adding a source of nitrogen manure, that is not a uniform source of N either, the variance with the field only increases.
Traditionally in a continuous corn rotation a nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) of between 1.0-1.2 pounds of nitrogen is considered standard. Prior to using PSNT to determine sidedress nitrogen rates this was the NUE observed on this farm. Once soil nitrate testing was implemented into the nitrogen program, an improvement to approximately 0.9-1.0 pounds of nitrogen per bushel produced. Once the investment was made to gain the ability to apply the sidedress using variable rate technology the farm NUE improved to an average of 0.7-0.85 pounds of nitrogen per bushel while still being on a com on corn rotation.
My objective in requesting this grant is to fine tune my nitrogen requirements to grow a com crop and not leave valuable nutrients susceptible to leaching. I would like to compare the value in different Nitrogen Management decision tools. The tools I would like to compare are Encirca nitrogen model and 360 Yield Center’s Soil Scan machine. Both are designed to determine the in season Nitrogen needs of a growing com crop. I will also be comparing these two tools against soil samples sent to Midwest Labs for nitrate testing to determine accuracy of the decision tools.
BWT this year will be looking at the how “zone tillage” with a 3 coulter cart will affect the soils ability to infiltrate water and reduce surface run off while in a corn on corn situation versus the current SOP of tillage on corn. BWT will be soil sampling and tissue testing both systems to discover any differences. Water samples to be drawn from tile outlets from each system.
Observation during winter and spring 2015 showed some of the worst wind erosion in years. There was a significant amount of soil that was blown into the ditches around fields. The winter of 2016 also did not provide much snow cover which promoted wind erosion. We observed the acres we had custom strip tilled had significantly less erosion than our conventionally tilled acres. We attended the National Strip Till Conference which provided a lot of very good information and also provided networking with other farmers trying these practices.
My first objective is successfully establish a stand of annual ryegrass, oilseed radish and rapeseed into V6 corn while making an in-season nitrogen application. I will accomplish this by using the lnter-seeder/Side-dresser that I built in the spring of 2016 for the first year of my MN Corn Innovation Grant trials. During this past growing season, I established 28 plants/square foot or 85% germination using only 10lbs of seed per acre ($15/acres seed cost). That mix was annual ryegrass,
Manure application is a challenge in the fall for many farmers due to time constraints from harvest, weather, etc. Also, adopting new application practices also poses a challenge because “not everyone is doing it”. For this proposal, I’d like to develop and investigate a better more sustainable system for liquid swine manure applications. The land in my area is always excessively tilled (in my opinion); especially after manure applications and I keep thinking that there has to be a better way.