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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Houma, Louisiana » Sugarcane Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #317183

Research Project: New Crop and Soil Management Systems to Improve Sugarcane Production Efficiency

Location: Sugarcane Research

Title: Evaluation of optical sensing and variable nitrogen rate application in Louisiana sugarcane production systems

item TUBANA, BRENDA - LSU Agcenter
item VIATOR, HOWARD - LSU Agcenter
item DALEN, MARILYN - LSU Agcenter
item BABU, TAPASAYA - LSU Agcenter
item WHITE, BRANDON - LSU Agcenter
item Johnson, Richard

Submitted to: American Society of Sugar Cane Technologists
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/15/2015
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Nitrogen (N) is the most limiting nutrient and considered the biggest expense among fertilizer inputs in sugarcane production. A need-based N application can be implemented with the use of optical sensor technology allowing acquisition of sugarcane N status in the absence of soil and plant tissue testing. A sensor-based N decision tool was developed for sugarcane production in Louisiana wherein N recommendation is derived from predicted sugar yield potential and estimate of plant-available N at the time of fertilization. Large-field demonstration plots were established in 2012 in two producers’ field in Donaldsonville and one at the LSU AgCenter Sugar Research Station in St. Gabriel, LA. The treatments included farmer’s standard N practice (based on LSU AgCenter N recommendation), and N recommendations based on (a) stalk N removal rate + soil mineral N (nitrate and ammonium) test and (b) optical sensor readings. All treatments were replicated three times for each site and superimposed to plots with size ranging from 9,000 ft2 to 33,000 ft2 (application resolution). At harvest, 15 randomly selected stalks were collected for primary yield components (theoretical recoverable sugar, Brix, sucrose and moisture content) prior to entire-plot harvesting. In 2013, optical sensor based-N recommendation consistently obtained higher net return than the farmer’s standard N practice averaging $55 ac-1. Recommendation made based on stalk N removal rate + soil mineral N earned the highest net return of $223 ac-1 in one site but lost $23 ac-1 in another site. In 2014, optical sensor-based N recommendation performed better over the farmer’s standard practice in only one site recording a net return from N fertilizer of $223 ac-1. On the hand, losses were incurred ($47 and 95 ac-1) from the other two sites which can be partially attributed to a delayed N application timing. Similarly, stalk N removal rate + soil mineral N had a positive net return in only two sites. Our results demonstrate the potential of optical sensor-based N recommendation as a viable approach for site-specific N management in sugarcane production in Louisiana.