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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


item Kitchen, Newell
item Scharf, Peter
item Roberts, Darrin
item Sudduth, Kenneth - Ken

Submitted to: ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract only
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/14/2006
Publication Date: 11/14/2006
Citation: Kitchen, N.R., Scharf, P.C., Roberts, D., Sudduth, K.A. 2006. Can optical sensors reduce field N losses?. ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting Abstracts.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: For many corn production fields, variable-rate N applications can optimize production and minimize off-field N losses. Variability in N fertilizer need is a function of both year-to-year climate differences (e.g., precipitation and temperature) and point-to-point soil differences (e.g., mineralization potential and denitrification potential). Crop canopy reflectance sensors employing artificial light sources have allowed researchers and producers to explore procedures accounting for this variability in N fertilizer need and, when employed on a variable-rate applicator, automatically adjusting N application rates. This procedure is based on the fact that corn needing N is lighter in color, usually smaller, and reflects light differently than corn that has sufficient N. This work reports on using these sensors in quantifying crop N needs and the potential subsequent environmental benefits. As an example, a 2004-05 study conducted on 12 producer fields in Missouri found that economic optimal N rate (EONR) was significantly related to readings from the sensors. Averaged over all fields, sensor-based applications reduced N fertilizer rate from what the producer applied by 37 kg N/ha. As N-rate approached EONR, both yield efficiency and N fertilizer recovery efficiency declined, while post-harvest inorganic N levels increased. The potential reduction in N lost from corn production fields into rivers and streams by using this sensor technology will be examined for the case of the U.S. Midwest. Adoption of sensor-based N management will occur once profitability is demonstrated and environmental benefits are documented.

Last Modified: 8/24/2016
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