Fine Tuning Our Precision Tools
Since last fall, we have been working with Luke Lightfoot (Co-Alliance and DataOnTouch agronomist) on the equations behind our nitrogen model. Our own soil test results (nitrate/ammonium) and those of others in Illinois this past winter were instrumental in fine-tuning the equation set we have presently settled on for United Prairie. This is a work in progress, and we will make continued improvements as we seek to build this into the best model possible.
One thing that sets us apart from others is our commitment to ground-truthing the systems and products we develop, use and recommend to our producers. As part of this process, continued sampling at both the 1-foot and 2-foot level will be implemented throughout this next growing season at four different IFCA/University of Illinois nitrogen-rate trials in our footprint to further ground-truth the model. We’re also aided in developing our model by the fact that we have local weather stations equipped with soil probes at 2-, 5-, 10- and 15-inch depths that help us monitor both soil temperature and soil water levels.
Take a look at the table below which contains data taken from our Nitrogen-Model. This table represents averaged data from three separate farms close to existing United Prairie weather stations within our footprint that represent both lighter and heavier soils (CECs from 18-25). I used a base rate of 120 pounds per acre of nitrogen to get a sense of what the model presently tells us.
The results are, in my opinion, quite revealing. With the unusually warm fall/winter season, the state of fall-applied N is a key topic of discussion. Based upon the results shown above, N-inhibitor use greatly impacted estimated fall applied nitrogen conversion to the nitrate form and overall nitrogen losses. However, weather conditions from here on (warmer soil temperatures + rainfall events) will have the greatest effect on potential soil nitrate-N losses.
Preparing for another season
Decision time has arrived for farmers as they plan for spring work, and the Innovation Farm is no different. As a team, we are working very hard to develop protocols for our 2016 trials. It appears we’ll have even more products and programs to evaluate this season than we did in 2015.
As we welcome farmers with Northern Illinois Alliance, we’re anxious to get involved and learn more about the production practices used in the north-central Illinois area. We’ll see a wider diversity of soil types there, so I’m excited to take some of our trials into that area.