Although nitrogen is essential for crop growth, how much is too much? Nutrients such as nitrogen are removed from the soil during plant growing seasons and need to be replaced. However, the difference between inputs and removals by crops can be dangerous to the environment, including the soil, water and air. So what’s being done to better manage the application of nitrogen to crops?
According to the College of Agricultural Consumer and Environmental Sciences’ website, the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture has received a $2.4 million grant to fund an interdisciplinary program led by researchers at the University of Illinois. The grant will help to cover software, hardware and manpower costs involved with performing on-farm experiments across 100 fields in Illinois, Nebraska and Kentucky, as well as locations in Argentina and Uruguay.
This four-year study will use precision agriculture technologies to run full-field, agronomic trials that change the amount of nitrogen fertilizer used. Throughout the study, researchers hope to gather data that will help farmers learn how to manage the application of nitrogen for their crops to reduce nutrient runoff and increase profits.
“What we’re doing differently is changing the management variables,” said U of I agricultural economist David Bullock in a College of ACES press release. “We’re characterizing the fields and taking yield data, but we’re also going to be changing nitrogen application rates on a fine scale throughout each field. This will generate a lot of information on what works and what doesn’t.”
Researchers are currently looking for farmers who are interested in participating in this revolutionary study. Those who choose to participate will be compensated for any losses, if any at all should occur. They will also receive $500 for their participation, and will simply need to operate their operations as usual. Plus, participants can also know that opening their operation to researchers could lead to new practices and procedures that could change the efficacy of nitrogen enrichment efforts at farms nationwide!
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