|August 7, 2013|
N-Watch: Technology in Today’s Corn Fields
As farmers strive to optimize corn yields and expand productivity to meet the feed grain demands of a growing world population, they must remain vigilant regarding the surrounding environment and use of natural resources to make such improvements sustainable.
A new program launched by GROWMARK and the Illinois Council for Best Management Practices helps farmers zero in on better management of applied nitrogen (N). The goal of this program is to improve the long-term profitability of farmers while minimizing the environmental effects of applied nitrogen by enhancing its efficient use by plants.
The program is called N-WATCH. It is a management tool designed to inventory, track and verify plant-available N in the soil. It allows farmers to optimize nutrient utilization and know where within their soil profile the concentration of plant-available N is in their fields. It is a tool that farmers can use to help make nitrogen management decisions.
Farmers can now watch the behavior of plant-available N as a result of environmental changes.
For example, how much N is lost from early applications? Is there any residual N left that can be captured by planting a cover crop? These and other questions are being addressed by N-WATCH. It is a management tool for farmers that shifts N management from an application to a systems approach, applying incremental amounts of the nutrient over time.
Farmers participating in the N-WATCH program have gained a new understanding and appreciation for what happens to applied N from time of application to the stage of rapid corn growth. It supplements rather than replaces current university recommendations.
The essential part of N-WATCH is that it provides farmers with a new way to estimate and track plant-available N at a specific point in a field. And it has brought renewed attention to managing N using the 4R Approach – Right source, Right rate, Right time and Right place.
To learn more about the N-WATCH program, contact your local ag retailer or visit the Illinois Council for Best Management Practices online at http://illinoiscbmp.org.
Howard Brown is Manager of Agronomy Services at GROWMARK, Inc.