Nitrogen is a key input for corn, but determining how much nitrogen to apply can be difficult. A research project is being done on Indiana farms to help determine just the right amount. The Indiana On-Farm Network® will be offering growers the chance to participate in a study to determine the right amount of nitrogen for their fields. Candace Kindt, Soil Health Director with the Delaware County SWCD, says the goal is to help growers evaluate if they are using too much nitrogen, “We are trying to help farmers find that sweet spot where just enough nitrogen to maximize yields is being used.” She added there comes a point in every field where yields plateau and adding more nitrogen is not increasing yields; that point is what the research will help farmers find.
This will be done by taking stalk samples, once the crop reaches black layer. Kindt explained, “The state will use satellite imagery to look at a field and locate a spot where nitrogen looks deficient.” Then she will take stalk samples to determine how much nitrogen is left in the plant, “The amount that is left at black layer is the amount that was not used by the plant and was more than was needed.” The sample data will be cross-tabulated with soil types, weather, and hybrids, and compared with other samples. Those growers using precision agriculture may be able to collect and compare even more data. At the end of the year, a meeting will be held for all growers to review the collected data.
All of a grower’s information will be kept confidential, and there is no cost to participate in the program. Kindt hopes to work with at least 14 growers in Delaware, Madison, Randolph, and Blackford counties. In total, there are eight locations around the state where the program will be offered. For more information, contact your local SWCD office. Kindt stressed that, while the information from the project is valuable, the real value is the specific field data that farmers will get that will help them improve their operations.
In August 2010, the Indiana State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) was awarded a Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The purpose of the grant was the formation and implementation of The Indiana On-Farm Network®. As a pilot project, ISDA worked with the Jasper County Soil and Water Conservation District to engage a group of 17 farmers. Aerial imagery and guided stalk sampling was conducted on 39 fields.