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Title: The first nitrogen index app for mobile devices: using portable technology for smart agricultural management

item Delgado, Jorge
item Kowalski, Kevin
item Tebbe, Caleb

Submitted to: Computers and Electronics in Agriculture
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/11/2012
Publication Date: 1/10/2013
Citation: Delgado, J.A., Kowalski, K.D., Tebbe, C.R. 2013. The first nitrogen index app for mobile devices: using portable technology for smart agricultural management. Computers and Electronics in Agriculture. 91:121-123.

Interpretive Summary: Advances in technology are moving really quickly and providing opportunities to develop new, cutting-edge tools that can help us implement better nitrogen management practices that will help increase nutrient use efficiencies at the field level and increase economic returns to farmers. Improvement in nitrogen management will help farmers achieve higher economic returns as well as help lower impacts to the environment from nitrogen losses. Tools such as the Nitrogen Index 4.4 (version written in Java) have been proven to be robust tools that can help us assess the potential risk of nitrogen losses, and the potential benefits of applying a given best management practice. Nitrogen losses are impacting world systems, and across the USA there is also a need to improve management (Ribaudo et al., 2011; Delgado and Follett, 2010; Hatfield and Follett, 2008). This paper reports on the world’s first Nitrogen Index app, its development, its functionality, and its potential applications. The new Nitrogen Index app can be a useful tool that can help us assess the risk of nitrogen losses and implement management practices to reduce this risk. This paper shows the potential applications of this new technology; how tools that can be carried to the field and elsewhere in a pocket (e.g., a phone) to conduct quick assessments can help us be quicker and more mobile. This is a strong example of recent technological advances that have developed in the field of agriculture, and it shows how new technologies such as mobile devices are providing us the power to integrate a lot of information and quickly share it with others. This paper introduces the first Nitrogen Index app, and we anticipate that there will be more advances in computers and software in the near future that will bring us to a new frontier of technology transfer for smart mobile agriculture.

Technical Abstract: Nitrogen fertilizer from organic and inorganic sources is used across the world’s agroecosystems. It contributes to higher yields and higher economic returns to farmers, and is essential for food security. However, when more is applied than necessary, significant amounts of nitrogen can exit the system and impact the environment. Appropriate nitrogen management, where the right amounts of nitrogen are applied and best practices are used to ensure higher use efficiency, is important for conservation. A recent study from the USDA reported that about sixty-six percent of U.S. cropland was not meeting all of three best management practices for nitrogen: best rate, best time of application, and best method of application ( Without the use of best management practices, the potential for losses of nitrogen to the environment, which can impact air, surface water, and groundwater, is higher (e.g., Nitrogen tools can help us assess the risk of nitrogen losses from a field to the environment ( We need quick and mobile nitrogen management risk assessment tools that can be carried to the field and elsewhere. The first smartphone/tablet application (or “app”) of the Nitrogen Index was released on February 26th, 2012. A PC® version1 of the Nitrogen Index, which can be used on PC desktop and laptop computers, is also available, so users can email the results from their Nitrogen Index app developed for smartphones/tablets in the field to their computer back at the office (or a farmer’s or consultant’s computer) using their portable device’s internet service. The Nitrogen Index smartphone/tablet application can be downloaded at no cost from the Google Play™ website ( to any phone that has the Android™ system. To find the application, the user simply needs to do a search at the Google Play website using “Nitrogen Index” as the search term. This new advance in portable technology will allow users to carry small devices such as a phone to conduct an assessment on site and visit with a farmer at any given field site where a wireless connection is available. The Nitrogen Index is a quick tool, and its assessments of nitrogen loss risk are correlated with observed values. This is the first Nitrogen Index app in the world and it is the beginning of more advances to come in the field of portable agricultural technology. New advances in software (e.g., apps) and technology are bringing us to a new frontier of technology transfer, and portable technologies (e.g., smartphones, tablets) are making possible the development of ‘smart agriculture.’