Farmers may soon have a new set of tools along with professional guidance that tells them not only how much nitrogen they currently have in specific, small areas of their fields, but how long they can expect that nitrogen to last. That’s part of the expectation from a new collaboration announced Feb. 19 by DuPont Pioneer, the University of Missouri, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service.

The public-private collaboration will result in using more accurate soil mapping units than ever seen before, the partners say, to identify Environmental Response Units (ERUs). Coupling those ERUs with real-time weather information will enable improved placement and better management of nitrogen fertilizer and other crop inputs.

“DuPont Pioneer has long been dedicated to providing our customers with products and services that bring the greatest value to each acre through sustainable field management,” said Paul Schickler, president, DuPont Pioneer.  “This public-private collaboration with Missouri and USDA-ARS takes that effort to a higher level, helping growers increase yields while being better stewards of the environment.”

Identify smaller areas with similar management

“Management decisions strongly depend on how crops respond to the soil and landscape,” said Brent Myers, Ph.D., agronomist, University of Missouri.  “Public soil maps are very valuable, but we can now track differences in fields at a much higher resolution than previously available. ERUs identify smaller areas within fields that can be similarly managed.  This collaboration provides opportunities for connecting innovative soil and landscape science with decision-making for millions of acres in the United States.”

 

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Management begins with soil

“Management begins with the soil,” said Joe Hanson, Senior Manager for Next Generation Services for DuPont Pioneer. “We won’t be using averages any more—we’re using high resolution soils data. The ERUs may be as small as an acre or could be much larger—they will be designed individually to meet each grower’s needs.”

The model couples accurate soils information with weather data at the farm, Hanson said. “We’re able to do a risk assessment, where we determine what needs to be done to ensure there’s enough nitrogen at V6 and above, so it’s not limiting yield. We also want to be as efficient as possible in the use of that product.”

“At the same time, we’re monitoring real-time field by field, so a farmer can see the actual nitrogen level by Environmental Response Unit. The monitoring allows him to plan ahead, and act if something happens. If a five-inch rain occurs in April, he has time to act, because the 50 years of weather in the model tells him where he will be short in nitrogen.”

 Hanson said the model is being validated with actual nitrate sampling. The tools are still in Beta testing on 60 farms across the Midwest; a date hasn’t been set for roll out for broader use.

 

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