New technologies for improving sustainability of corn N management

Final Report for LNE13-328

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2013: $219,972.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2016
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Aaron Ristow
American Farmland Trust
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Project Information

Summary:

Adapt-N-Informative-Handout_Final Soil-Health-Informative-Handout_Final

The goal of the ‘New Technologies for Improving Sustainability of Corn Nitrogen Management” project was to enhance nitrogen management while also increasing the adoption of cover crop and soil health management practices in corn production.  It involved 8 Ag Service Providers, 9 commercial farms, 3 research farms and 40 on-farms trials over 3 years (2014, ’15, and ’16). The tool’s economic and environmental performance was evaluated through the on-farm trials. We also modeled for yield response using quadratic-plateau or linear-plateau models to estimate the economic optimum N rate to assess the precision of Adapt-N recommendations. Finally, measured soil nitrate and ammonium results were compared to modeled results to further assess the precision of Adapt-N. The results are very positive, and provide direction for improvement.  Adapt-N performs well when used correctly, and can improve profits while reducing environmental losses through leaching and denitrification (win-win). We have demonstrated average reductions in N inputs by 29 lbs/ac, with the same yields and higher farmer profits ($29/ac).  We have also demonstrated that the use of Adapt-N can result in 35-40% reductions in leaching and gaseous losses of nitrogen.  Adapt-N offers an estimated 5-20x return on investment for growers, depending on the production environment.  During the course of this project over 26 presentations were given at field days, winter meetings, regional trainings, scientific meetings, workshops, and webinars reaching a direct audience of 3,980 growers, industry professionals and members of the public.  13 articles were published in extension newsletters and 4 manuscripts were accepted into peer-reviewed journals.

Using average N savings of 30 lb/ac and an approximate 100,000 acres using Adapt-N recommendations, 2015 use of the tool alone can be estimated to have reduced the amount of N applied to these fields by over 3,000,000 pounds, saving producers a total of at least $1-2M. 

Introduction:

Soil nitrogen (N) is both spatially and temporally variable, challenging farmers to meet optimal nitrogen (N) needs and minimize N deficiency risk. N typically is a large monetary input for corn production in part due to farmer tendency to over-apply N fertilizer and/or manure to maximize their returns to N applications in the presence of high uncertainty around the optimum N rate. This excessive N may be readily lost to the environment through volatilization, runoff and leaching. Not only do N losses negatively impact yield, we know a significant percentage of total N load is carried by ground water or discharged to streams, causing environmental costs. Therefore, a top priority should be the estimation of the optimum N rate that meets crop production needs while minimizing environmental impacts.

The optimum N rate depends on numerous factors including the timing and amounts of early season precipitation events, previous organic and inorganic N applications, soil organic matter, carry-over N from previous cropping seasons, soil texture, rotations, etc. There are several approaches to optimizing N rates and minimize N losses. These can be generally categorized as (i) static and (ii) adaptive. Static tools offer generalized recommendations that do not consider seasonal conditions of weather and soil/crop management, while adaptive approaches account for the variable and site-specific nature of soil N dynamics, including the effects of weather. Using data from 40 field trials over three seasons we evaluated the economic and environmental impacts of N rate recommendations from the Adapt-N tool (Adapt-N.com and http://adapt-n.cals.cornell.edu/). We have demonstrated average reductions in N inputs by 29 lbs/ac, with the same yields and higher farmer profits ($29/ac).  We have also demonstrated that the use of Adapt-N can result in 35-40% reductions in leaching and gaseous losses of nitrogen.  Adapt-N offers an estimated 5-20x return on investment for growers, depending on the production environment. 

Performance Target:

By 2015, users will simulate locations representing 80,000 corn acres in Adapt‐N, and will implement recommendations on at least 20,000 acres. Although dependent on seasonal conditions, environmental losses through leaching and denitrification are expected to be reduced by 40%, saving on average 40 lb N/acre over conventional recommendation systems. Participating farmers will realize estimated savings of at least $550,000 and prevent over 800,000 lb of excess N from polluting the environment.”

Adapt-N was licensed at the end of 2013 and became available for commercial use in the spring of 2014. With the licensing of Adapt-N to Agronomic Technology Corporation (ATC), specific numbers on Adapt-N users on licensed accounts are not available to us at this time but we know that there is roughly 1M acres entered into the system and a portion of these acres include areas of NY. In addition, we have 72 growers and 22 Ag Service Providers with accounts on the research version of the model at the closing of the grant.  

The Adapt-N tool was validated based on 152 multi-year on-farm strip trials in the Midwest and Northeast, and we have demonstrated average reductions in N inputs by 29 lbs/ac, with the same yields and higher farmer profits ($29/ac).  We have also demonstrated that the use of Adapt-N can result in 35-40% reductions in leaching and gaseous losses of nitrogen. 

Adapt-N offers an estimated 5-20x return on investment for growers, depending on the production environment. Using average N savings of 30 lb/ac and an estimating a total of 200,000 acres currently using Adapt-N recommendations, 2014, 2015 and 2016 use of the tool alone can be estimated to have reduced the amount of N applied to these fields by over 6,000,000 pounds, saving producers a total of at least $3M. 

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Eric Bever
  • Paul Cerosaletti
  • Peg Cook
  • Dorn Cox
  • James Cubie
  • Dr. William Curran
  • Dr. Heather Darby
  • Dave Degolyer
  • Dale Dewing
  • Dr. Thomas Green
  • Dr. Ellen Mallory
  • Dr. Jeff Melkonian
  • Sandy Menasha
  • Dr. Steven Mirsky
  • Dr. Dan Moebius-Clune
  • Dr. Bianca Moebius-Clune
  • Rebecca Ressl
  • Dr. Matt Ryan
  • Bob Schindelbeck
  • Keith Severson
  • Dr. John Spargo
  • Dr. Eric Young
  • Dr. Harold van Es

Research

Materials and methods:

The research objectives of this project were to 1) broadly beta‐test the Adapt‐N tool through strip trials in the Northeast region, and 2) improve Adapt‐N performance and options by incorporating cover crop and soil health information. 3) Use training programs, materials and a user‐friendly interface to assist stakeholders in developing and experiencing essential perspectives and skills on N management.

1) Strip trials on 40 fields at 12 farms over 3 years examined whether or not and how Adapt‐N recommendation either (i) decreases N applied compared to grower or land grant university rates without reducing farmer profits, or (ii) in uncommon wet springs, increases corn yields and profits through higher fertilizer rates.

Trials were distributed across under a wide range of weather conditions, and involved grain and silage corn, with and without manure application, and rotations of corn after corn and corn after soybean. The pre-plant or starter fertilizer rates averaged 76 lbs/ac for NY. In each trial, the treatments were defined by the amount of N applied at sidedress, where the rates were:

(i)     the Adapt-N recommendation for the date of sidedress, and

(ii)    a Grower-selected rate, which typically represented their conventional practice.

We determined corn yields and associated profit differences for the two treatments. In order to directly compare the environmental fluxes resulting from Adapt-N and Grower sidedress N applications, we ran full season simulations (up to December 31st) for all trials and estimated the environmental fluxes that occurred after the application of sidedress N.

2) a. We leveraged previously and currently funded collaborator projects to improve Adapt‐N performance.  On‐farm strip trials conducted by BMP Challenge (including a profit guarantee), UVM, UME and others in 2012‐13 as part of the effort under (1) above.  b. A Hatch project assessing the role of soil health indicators in enhancing N rate prediction, including new biological measurements of soil respiration and soil proteins was developed for the Cornell Soil Health Test (www.soilhealth.cals.cornell.edu), and rapid assessment of field capacity, wilting point, total C and N using reflectance spectroscopy (equipment available). c. N‐response trials available from collaborators (soils data, location, many N rates, management dates and methods, yields) for Adapt‐N calibration/validation. d. Trials involving multiple cover‐crops, manure‐ and N‐rates as related to biomass, C and N content, and decomposition rates, from PA, MD, NY and VT. e. A greenhouse trial was completed to determine which measures derived from the Cornell Soil Health Assessment were best at improving soil nutrient supply models.

3) We contributed to talks and interactive discussion sessions at fall and winter meetings, we maintain an active website and social media presence, we participated and coordinated Adapt‐N strip trials for use of field days to demonstrate and explain the technologies’ effectiveness, and enable numerous informal site‐visits and discussions among participants.  We recorded webinars and regional trainings, we had workshops to provide in-depth hands-on Adapt-N training.  We produced newsletter articles, case studies and published scientific journal articles.

Near the beginning of the project Adapt-N was licensed to Agronomic Development Corporation in 2014 and is now available as a commercial tool (Adapt-N.com). This has greatly expanded the reach of the tool through (i) significant software improvements and (ii) professional marketing. Adapt-N now operates as a “public-private partnership” where Cornell University remains responsible for the research component and scientific enhancements, and ATC focuses on the business aspects. This has worked very well, as ATC remains committed to the scientific integrity of the tool.

We found our strategy to be tremendously effective as we were able to demonstrate “win-win” opportunities as applying a more precise rate at each location results not only in producer profits, but also in decreased greenhouse gas losses, and reduced N losses to surface and groundwater.  We produced a large volume of outreach activities including presentations at field days, newsletter articles, webinares, and scientific journals to share our results.

 

Research results and discussion:

Sela-et-al.-2016-Adapt-N-outproformes-Grower-Agronomy-Journal-published

Sela-et-al-2017-JEQ-Dynamic-Model-Improves-Agronomic

Adapt-N was licensed to Agronomic Tech Corporation (ATC) and is now available as a commercial tool (Adapt-N.com).  This has greatly expanded the reach of the tool through (i) significant software improvements and (ii) professional marketing.  Adapt-N now operates as a “public-private partnership” where Cornell University remains responsible for the research component and scientific enhancements, and ATC focuses on the business aspects.  This has worked very well, as ATC remains committed to the scientific integrity of the tool and acreages being used continues on an upward trend.

Overall, more than 200 strip trials have been conducted on commercial farms to test the Adapt-N tool and function as demonstration trials. During the course of this project we have implemented trials at 103 locations on 61 farms across several states. We communicated with advisers and collaborators on the progress of field trial implementation and to collect Adapt-N results. In addition, we continue to receive feedback from collaborators on the utility of the Adapt-N Tool.  In 2016 ATC introduced N-insight, an Adapt-N derivative tool that demonstrates the benefits of the 4Rs (Right source, timing, placement, rate) and adaptive management through a rapid simulation of multi-year conditions on a farmer field. It has proven to be an innovative educational tool and conversation starter with farmers. Also, it effectively engages the fertilizer retail sector in finding optimum management solutions.

During the course of this project over 26 presentations have been given at field days, winter meetings, regional trainings, scientific meetings, workshops, and webinars reaching a direct audience of 3,980 growers, industry professionals and members of the public.  In addition, we are actively working with other organizations like Environmental Defense Fund as part of the NutrientStar evaluation process, and also to perform Adapt-N simulations in the context of the development of policy recommendations.  We have communicated regularly with NRCS leadership in Washington, DC (Honeycutt, Widman, etc.) about updates related to Adapt-N. 

We have published several newsletter articles that demonstrate Adapt-N’s usefulness in monitoring N availability and provide precise N recommendations in the field in addition to using it as a modeling tool to demonstrate how Adapt-N can reduce environmental losses and how dynamic N rate tools for corn compares to static ones. Furthermore, we have published an academic paper titled “Adapt-N Outperforms Grower-Selected Nitrogen Rates in Northeast and Midwest USA Strip Trials” in the American Society of Agronomy Journal.

Although we reached or exceeded project objectives and milestones and the project was largely executed as planned, there were two major course corrections. The first was that we transitioned from the loss of the initial project manager, Bianca Moebius-Clune, to be the Director of the newly created USDA/NRCS Soil Health Division.  Secondly, we transitioned from the Cornell Adapt-N research team maintaining and improving the tool to establishing a public-private partnership with Agronomic Technology Corporation (ATC) to sustain Adapt-N availability to the public.  With this transition, we lost a little time to readjust and therefore needed a year extension.  However these changes benefited the overall objectives of the project by promoting Soil Health and the adoption of Adapt-N on a broader scale.  The milestones were completed as follows:

  • 1500 farmers and advisors gain understanding of dynamic, in‐season N management with tools like Adapt‐N and multi‐purpose/high‐clearance equipment for sidedressing and cover crop establishment, through field days, winter meetings, and newsletter articles. Status – Completed: We directly reached 3,980 growers, agricultural service providers, and general members of the public.
  • 300 farmers and advisors learn the above and also how to use Adapt‐N and the new preliminary cover‐crop module through webinars, and 80 of these will also gain in‐depth knowledge of Adapt‐N use in 2 intensive hands‐on workshops provided by the team; 30 new farmers and 10 new advisors request accounts to use the updated Adapt‐N version in 2014; 150 new growers and 20 new consultants sign up to use the enhanced Adapt‐N version, better incorporating cover crop and soil health effects, by 2015. Status- Completed: As of 10/31/16 there were 72 Growers and 22 Ag Service Providers with accounts on the research version of the tool alone. Specific numbers on Adapt-N users on licensed accounts are not available to us at this time but we know that there is roughly 1M acres entered into Adapt-N, a portion of these acres include areas of NY.  The Cover crop module is in development for implementation in the spring of 2017.
  • 12 farmers, working with 8 project collaborators, implement strip trials, comparing current N management with Adapt‐N rates, gaining direct experience and training with dynamic, in‐season N management. For 20 locations, farmers shift N applications to later in the season, and/or will use multi‐purpose/high‐clearance equipment to apply N and/or plant cover crops; Status – Completed: Over 3 years (2014-16) we involved 8 Ag Service Providers, 9 commercial farms, 3 research farms and 40 on-farm side-by-side (grower vs. Adapt-N) and multi-rate rate trials in New York. As of 10/31/16 there were 72 Growers and 22 Ag Service Providers with accounts on the research version of the tool alone. Specific numbers on Adapt-N users on licensed accounts are not available to us at this time but we know that there is roughly 1M acres entered into Adapt-N, a portion of these acres include areas of NY. 
  • 15 additional farmers implementing CIG funded cover‐crop inter‐seeding trials in MD, PA and NY learn how to use Adapt‐N and implement Adapt‐N rates using the new cover crop module. Status – Completed: The CIG funded project was completed in 2014. Research was completed and code was written for including cover crop information but the user interface is still in development for 2017 implementation. We are dependent on the private company who licensed Adapt-N to decide to include this update into their software. We continue to work with them and expect it to be implemented for the spring of 2017.
  • At least 50 users answer endofseason survey questions on their experience with Adapt Status-Completed: With the licensing of Adapt-N in 2014, most of the duties of getting feedback and integrating suggestions into the tool fall to the license company, ATC. They have responded to client’s feedback directly by adding several new features including the ability to enter a field-measured PSNT value (vs a modeled one) and 3 zone creation modes – point-based (original model), polygon-based variable rate (user defined management zones) and gridded variable rate (60x60ft prescriptions with unlimited geometries). Recently ATC developed complimentary software and management tool for financial and environmental impact assessments called N-Insight. N-Insight is a web- based, interactive nitrogen diagnostic solution tool targeted to agriculture retailers, agronomists, and other technology providers to allow for rapid evaluation of the value of using precision N management tools. N-Insight was built on Adapt-N and is a “conversation starter” between growers and agronomists, helps growers understand how to adapt to in-season weather conditions, how soil conditions impact N loss, and how changes in management practice may improve yield and environmental performance. These upgrades reflect the interests of the clients and are necessary to continue to adapt and grow adoption of Adapt-N as the number and type of users increase.
  • 1500 farmers and advisors learn about Adapt‐N performance results from prior growing seasons, and updated cover cropping and soil health indicator input features, through 4 field days and 4 fall/winter meetings. Status-Completed:  1,602 participated in 2015 through 9 field days and 14 summer/fall/winter meetings. In 2016 we reached 1,845 growers and industry professionals through 2 winter meetings, 2 regional trainings, 1 webinar, 1 workshop, 7 international professional conferences and 5 field days. Between February 1st 2015 and November 2016 we directly reached 3,250 people. We indirectly reached many more through extension articles and published manuscripts (see below).
  • 300 farmers and advisors will gain in‐depth understanding through webinars, training modules and 2 further in‐depth workshops including hands‐on interactive material. Status – Completed: Since the tool has been licensed, some of the education responsibilities have transferred to the company. However, we published the Adapt-N manual in 2014 (http://adapt-n.cals.cornell.edu/manual/pdfs/adapt-n-manual.pdf) and held a webinar in March 2015 to 20 Ag Service Providers. Between February 1st 2015 and November 2016 we directly reached 3,250 people through winter meetings, regional trainings, webinars, workshops and field days. We indirectly reached many more through extension articles and published manuscripts (see below).
  • At least 100 users reply to an end of season survey on their experience with and implementation of Adapt‐N. Status-Completed: With the licensing of Adapt-N in 2014, most of the duties of getting feedback and integrating suggestions into the tool fall to the license company, ATC. They have responded to client’s feedback directly by adding several new features including the ability to enter a field-measured PSNT value (vs a modeled one) and 3 zone creation modes – point-based (original model), polygon-based variable rate (user defined management zones) and gridded variable rate (60x60ft prescriptions with unlimited geometries). Recently ATC developed complimentary software and management tool for financial and environmental impact assessments called N-Insight. N-Insight is a web- based, interactive nitrogen diagnostic solution tool targeted to agriculture retailers, agronomists, and other technology providers to allow for rapid evaluation of the value of using precision N management tools. N-Insight was built on Adapt-N and is a “conversation starter” between growers and agronomists, helps growers understand how to adapt to in-season weather conditions, how soil conditions impact N loss, and how changes in management practice may improve yield and environmental performance. These upgrades reflect the interests of the clients and are necessary to continue to adapt and grow adoption of Adapt-N as the number and type of users increase.
Participation Summary

Education

Educational approach:

We have been able to reach more than the target number of professionals on the use and benefit of the Adapt-N approach.  We have achieved high exposure throughout the US corn growing region, and Adapt-N is regarded as a leading dynamic N management tool. We have been able to complete the training sessions and reach many professionals.  The strip trials indicated that farmers and consultants require guidance on the use of the tool, especially as it relates to yield estimates.  The tool performed very well when the yield goals were well estimated.

1,602 participated in 2015 through 9 field days and 14 summer/fall/winter meetings. In 2016 we reached 1,845 growers and industry professionals through 2 winter meetings, 2 regional trainings, 1 webinar, 1 workshop, 7 international professional conferences and 5 field days. Between February 1st 2015 and November 2016 we directly reached 3,250 people. Below is a description of field days and other events produced during this project:

Ristow 2/11/15 in Cooperstown, NY on Soil Health Assessment for the Otsego County SWCD Soil Health Workshop. 20 in attendance.

Ristow 3/16/15 in Dryden, NY on the Soil Health Assessment for the Tompkins County SWCD Soil Health Workshop. 22 in attendance.

Dr. van Es gave a presentation at the NYFVI Precision Ag Planning Meeting in Syracuse, NY on 3/05/15 with approximately 45 in attendance.

DeGolyer – 1/14 and 1/15 on Adapt-N at Corn Congress in Batavia and Waterloo, NY. 575 in attendance.

Roche and Mallory 1/14/15 – Adapt-N at the 74th annual Maine Ag Trade Show in Augusta, ME. 40 in attendance.

van Es and Levow gave a webinar presentation on Adapt-N trial results to 20 Indiana Ag Service providers on 3/19/15.

Mallory 3/24/15 – Evaluating N management tools at the Aroostook farmer meeting in Presque Isle, ME with 20 in attendance.

Ristow and Schindelbeck 7/8/15 – On Adapt-N and Soil Health Assessment at the Willsboro Farm Field Days in Willsboro, NY with 60 in attendance.

Mallory 7/16/15 – In-season N management tools at the Univ. of Maine Sustainable Ag Field Days in Old Town, ME with 40 in attendance.

vanEs 7/30/15 – Adapt-N talk at the InfoAg Conference in St. Louis, MI with 200 in attendance.

Ristow and Schindelbeck 7/16/15 – Adapt-N and Soil Health Assessment at the Musgrave Field Day in Aurora, NY with 150 in attendance.

Multiple Speakers/Presenters gave talks on Soil Health and Adapt-N at the 2015 Cornell Soil Health Workshop on Aug 5-8th in Ithaca, NY. 65 in attendance.

DeGolyer 8/12/15. Adaptive N Management Tools at the Empire Farm Days in Seneca Falls, NY 70 in attendance.

Schindelbeck 9/4/15 on the Soil Health Assessment at the Central New York Soil Health Field Day in Skaneateles, NY, 50 in attendance.

Shai Sela gave a presentation on Adapt-N Management on 10/13/15 at the 2nd International Conference on Global Food Security in Ithaca, NY with about 40 in attendance.

Ristow 11/24/15 on Adaptive Nitrogen Management and Soil Health Testing at the NYS Soil Health Workgroup meeting in Canandaigua, NY, 20 in attendance.

Sela 10/11/15 on Employing cloud computing technologies and precision N management as a tool to sustainable agricultural intensification at the 2nd annual International Conference on global food security in Ithaca, NY to approximately 40 people.

Sela 11/15/15 on N Recommendations in North Carolina: Evaluation of Adapt-N at the ASA, CSSA and SSSA annual meeting in Minneapolis, MN to approximately 40 people.

Sela 11/16/15 on Adapt-N Maize N management tool: Lessons learned from long-term field trials in IA and NY at the ASA, CSSA and SSSA annual meeting in Minneapolis, MN to approximately 40 people.

Schindelbeck, 12/04/15 on Understanding the Cornell Soil Health Test to a field day held in Tarrytown, NY to approximately 35 people.

Ristow 12/16/15 On Building Better Soil Through Soil Health Management at the New England Vegetable and Fruit Conference in Manchester, NH, 210 people in attendance.

Ristow 12/22/15 on Building Better Soil Through Soil Health Management at the Western NY Soil Health Alliance farmer meeting in Elba, NY, 100 in attendance.

Sela 2/5/16 on Adapt-N modeling at the Cornell IGERT Seminar Series in Ithaca, NY.

Dave DeGoyler the week of February 22nd on recapping Adapt-N Nitrogen Recommendations for the 2015 season to a farmer meeting in Pennsylvania.

Schindelbeck 3/16/16 on Soil Health Basics at the NYSCDEA Water Quality Symposium in Syracuse, NY, 40 in attendance.

Kurtz 3/16/16 on the Soil Health Indicators and lab procedures at the NYSCDEA Water Quality Symposium in Syracuse, NY, 40 in attendance.

Ristow 3/16/16 on the Soil Health Management Planning Process at the NYSCDEA Water Quality Symposium in Syracuse, NY, 40 in attendance.

Levow 4/5/16 on Boosting Yields and Cutting Nitrogen Costs with Adapt- N on a webinar coordinated by the Partnership for Ag Resource Management; 156 attended.

Soil Health Team 4/27/16 on Soil Health 201 for Groundswell Managing Soils for Better Crops Series; 4 in attendance.

Harold van Es on Adapt-N: A cloud-based computational tool for crop nitrogen management that improves production and environmental outcomes on 4/22/16 at the European Geoscience Union Meeting in Vienna, Austria, 50 people in attendance.

 Shai Sela on Surplus N in US maize production: Informing data-driven policies using the Adapt-N model on 4/22/16 at the European Geoscience Union Meeting in Vienna, Austria, 50 in attendance.

Shai Sela on Improving Nutrient Use Efficiency and Reducing Environmental Losses of Nitrogen: Insights from a Process-Based Model and On-Farm Trials on 6/29/16 at the 19th International N workshop in Skara, Sweden.

Harold van Es on Adapt-N updates on 7/14/16 at the 2016 Musgrave Field Day, 160 in attendance.

Bob Schindelbeck on the Cornell Soil Health Lab Updates on 7/14/16 at the 2016 Musgrave Field Day, 160 in attendance.

Dave DeGoyler on the Interseeding Field Day Planning Meeting on 7/20/16 in Warsaw, NY, 10 in attendance.

Aaron Ristow on Adapt-N: Comparing Static and Adaptive N Rate Tools for Corn Production on 7/25/16 at the 71st SWCS International Annual Conference in Louisville, KY, 40 in attendance.

Harold van Es on Soil Health – Transitioning to a National Approach on 7/28/16 at the 1st Annual Soil Health Institute Meeting in Louisville, KY, 180 in attendance.

Harold van Es on Adapt-N on 8/3/2016, at the 13th International Conference on Precision Ag, 60 people in attendance.

Shai Sela on Using the Adapt-N Model to Inform Policies Promoting the Sustainability of US Maize Production on 8/3/16 at the 13th International Conference on Precision Ag, 50 in attendance.

Brian Boerman and Patty Ristow (Project Collaborators) on Maximizing Yield Potential of a Hybrid and Soils using the N Response Trial in Corn on 8/4/2016 at the Corn and Soybean Summer Expo, 200 in attendance.

Dave DeGoyler (Project Collaborator) on Analyzing root function by digging through root pits in corn, soy and undisturbed ground and discussing soil health improvement as the foundation for growing great crops on 8/4/16 at the Corn and Soybean Summer Expo, 200 in attendance.

Bob Schindelbeck with Soil Health Demonstrations between 8/9 and 8/11/16 at the 2016 Empire Farm Days, 400 people in attendance for all 3 days.

Aaron Ristow on Practices to Support Soil Health on 8/23/16 at the Tompkins/Cortland SWCD and Cortland CCE Soil Health field day, 20 in attendance.

Kirsten Kurtz on Soil Health: The components that make soil “Healthy” on 9/1/2016 at the Cover Crops in Concords Workshop, 45 in attendance.

Bob Schindelbeck on Adapting the Cornell Soil Health Test to Western New York on 9/2/2106 at the Soil Health Mini-grant discussion in Batavia, NY, approximately 5 in attendance.

Bob Schindelbeck on Adapting the Cornell Soil Health Test to NRCS perspectives on 9/21/2106 at the Soil Health Workgroup meeting in Poplar Ridge NY, approximately 6 in attendance.

Bob Schindelbeck on Soil is Alive! on 10/7/2106 at the Class Roots Elementary School Event in Trumansburg, NY, 35 in attendance.

Dave DeGoyler (Project Collaborator) on Soil Health Management on 10/26/16 at the Soil Health Field Day at the Thornapple Dairy in Leicester, NY, 45 in attendance.

Bob Schindelbeck on Managing Soils for Better Crops 11/2/2106 at the Soil Health Workshop in Batavia, NY, 30 in attendance.

Becky Majerision on the Simulation of Nitrous Oxide Emissions from Maize Fields Using the Precision Nitrogen Management Model 11/7/2016 at the ASA,CSSA and SSSA annual meeting in Phoenix, AZ, 10 I attendance.

Harold van Es on Comparing Adapt-N to Static N recommendation approaches for US maize production on 11/9/2016 at the ASA,CSSA and SSSA annual meeting in Phoenix, AZ, 40 in attendance.

McLellan (project collaborator) on Meeting Agronomic and Environmental Goals: nitrogen surplus as a performance indicator for sustainable food supply on 11/9/2016 at the ASA,CSSA and SSSA annual meeting in Phoenix, AZ, 70 in attendance.

Shai Sela on The Relative Importance of Fertilizer Timing vs. Form in Controlling Environmental N Losses in US Corn Production on 11/9/2016 at the ASA,CSSA and SSSA annual meeting in Phoenix, AZ, 40 in attendance.

Shai Sela on Nitrogen Surplus and Nitrogen Losses in US Corn Production: model simulations and management implications on 11/9/2016 at the ASA,CSSA and SSSA annual meeting in Phoenix, AZ, 40 in attendance.

Bob Schindelbeck on Soil Management Planning on 12/6/2106 at the Soil and Nutrition Conference in Stockbridge, MA, 45 in attendance.

Thomas Bjorkman (project collaborator) on Understanding what your Soil Health Test Says on 12/7/2016 at the Great Lakes Expo in Grand Rapids, MI, 70 in attendance.

Thomas Bjorkman (project collaborator) on Application of a Soil Test for Organic Farms on 12/8/2016 at the Great Lakes Expo in Grand Rapids, MI, 40 in attendance.

Shai Sela on Adapt-N Overview and Agronomic Benefits on 1/30/17 at the 2017 Winter Farmer Meeting in Auburn, NY. 10 in attendance.

Aaron Ristow on Adaptive Management and Soil Health Testing on 1/30/17 at the 2017 Winter Farmer Meeting in Auburn, NY. 10 in attendance.

Harold van Es on Profitability Through Precision Nitrogen Management with Adapt-N on 2/14/17 at the 2017 Agribusiness Showcase in Des Moines, IA. 60 in attendance.

Harold van Es on the Cornell Comprehensive Assessment of Soil Health Framework at the Dannon Sustainability Initiative Kick-off Meeting on 2/2/17 in White Plains, NY. 25 in attendance.

Bob Schindelbeck and Kirsten Kurtz On Soil Health and Dirty Art on 3/21/17 at the Science Cabaret in Ithaca, NY. 60 in attendance.

Two independent articles were published in Corn and Soybean Digest one on July 20th and the other on July 21st:

1) Farmers apply science to optimize nitrogen on corn – Producers are using science to get more out of their buck – Farmers-apply-science-to-optimize-nitrogen-on-corn Corn-and-soybean-producers-find-retailer-who-supports-sustainable-farming (Farmers-apply-science-to-optimize-nitrogen-on-corn)

2) Corn and soybean producers find retailer who supports sustainable farming – Retailer supports sustainable farming – http://www.cornandsoybeandigest.com/corn/corn-and-soybean-producers-find-retailer-who-supports-sustainable-farming  (Corn-and-soybean-producers-find-retailer-who-supports-sustainable-farmingFarmers-apply-science-to-optimize-nitrogen-on-corn)

In addition, we indirectly reached many more through extension articles and published manuscripts:

Sela, S., H. M. van Es, B. N. Moebius-Clune, R. Marjerison, D. Moebius-Clune, R. Schindelbeck, K. Severson, E. Young. 2017. Dynamic model improves agronomic and environmental outcomes for maize N management over static approach. Journal of Environmental Quality. JEQ-2016-05-01822-TR.R2

Sela, S., H. M. van Es, B. N. Moebius-Clune, R. Marjerison, J. Melkonian, D. Moebius-Clune, R. Schindelbeck, and S. Gomes. 2016. Adapt-N Outperforms Grower-Selected Nitrogen Rates in Northeast and Midwestern United States StripTrials. Agron. J. 108:1726-1734. doi:10.2134/agronj2015.0606

Ristow, A., S. Sela, H. van Es, R. Marjerison, J. Melkonian, R. Schindelbeck, D. DeGolyer, K. Severson, E. Young, L. Fennell. 2016. Use of Adapt-N Results in Better Agronomic and Environment Outcomes than the Corn Calculator. What’s Cropping Up? 26:3

Ristow, A., S. Sela, M. Davis, L. Fennell, H. van Es. 2016. Water Quality Impacts Reduced with Adapt-N Recommendations. What’s Cropping Up? 26:2.

Fennel, L., S. Sela, A. Ristow, H. van Es, S. Gomes. 2015. Comparing Static and Adaptive N Rate Tools for Corn Production. What’s Cropping Up? 25:5

Fennel, L., S. Sela, A. Ristow, B. Moebius-Clune, D. Moebius-Clune, R. Schindelbeck, H. van Es, S. Gomes. 2015. Adapt-N Recommendations Reduce Environmental Losses. What’s Cropping Up? 25:5

Fennell, L., B. Moebius-Clune, A. Ristow, H. van Es. 2015. Corn Stalk Nitrate Test Shows Low Accuracy for Evaluating Corn Deficiencies and Excesses. What’s Cropping Up? 25:4

Ball, M., B. Moebius-Clune, S. Gomes, A. Ristow, H. van Es. 2015. Farmers with Diverse Nitrogen Management Practices Find Value in the Adapt-N Tool in Iowa. What’s Cropping Up? 25:1

Moebius-Clune, B., M. Ball, H. van Es, J. Melkonian. 2014. Adapt-N Boosts Profits and Cuts N Losses in Three Years of On-Farm Trials in New York. What’s Cropping Up? 24:5

Moebius-Clune, B., M. Ball, H. van Es, J. Melkonian. 2014. Adapt-N Responds to Weather, Increases Grower Profits in 2013 Strip Trials. What’s Cropping Up? 24:3

Ball, M., B. Moebius-Clune, H. van Es, J. Melkonian, K. Severson. 2014. New York Farm Delves Deeper with Adapt-N. What’s Cropping Up? 24:3

This information gathered and published during the project period has been used by our collaborators at Agronomic Technology Corporation to implement user- and research informed enhancements to the tool for each growing season.

In addition we have published several newsletter articles and manuscripts for publication on soil health:

Fine, A.K., H. van Es, R. Schindelbeck. 2017. Statistics, Scoring Functions, and Regional Analysis of a Comprehensive Soil Health Database. Accepted in the Soil Science Society of America Journal.

Kinoshita, R., H. van Es, J. Dantinne, M. Twining. 2016. Within-Field Profitability Analysis Informs Agronomic Management Decisions in the Mid-Atlantic USA.  Agricultural and Environmental Letters. December 28th, 2016.

Cornell University Comprehensive Assessment of Soil Health Laboratory Soil Health Manual Series. January 2017. Schindelbeck, R.R., A.J. Ristow, K.S. Kurtz, L.F. Fennell, H.M. van Es

Fine, A.K., A. Ristow, R. Schindelbeck, H. van Es. 2016. Update of Scoring Functions for Cornell Soil Health Test. What’s Cropping Up? 26:6

Fine, A.K., A. Ristow, R. Schindelbeck, H. van Es. 2016. Comparing Soil Health Results from Northeast, Midwest and Mid-Atlantic Regions. What’s Cropping Up? 26:6

Fennell, L., R. Schindelbeck, A. Ristow, H. van Es. 2016. Winthrop Square Park Project: Using Cornell University’s Comprehensive Assessment of Soil Health in an Urban Environment. What’s Cropping Up? 26:4.

Moebius-Clune, B., D. Moebius-Clune, R. Schindelbeck, H. van Es, D. Cox, B. Smith. 2014. Implementation of A soil Health Management Plan Resolves Pond Eutrophication at Tuckaway Farms, NH. What’s Cropping Up? 24:5

2016-Aurora-Field-Day-Handout-Final-For-Reporting

Static-vs-adaptive-NY-trials-SWCS-conference-presentation-July-2016

ACS-N-Rate-Trial-and-Corn-and-Soybean-Expo-2016 United-Suppliers-supports-sustainable-farming-by-using-crop-data-_-Corn-content-from-Corn-and-Soybean-Digest

Ristow-Adapt-N-and-Soil-Health-linkage-Severson-Farmer-Group-Jan-2017

WNYCMA-Januarynewsletter2017 

 

 

Additional Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Impacts of Results/Outcomes

Adapt-N (http://adapt-n.com) is a nitrogen technology solution that offers benefits for farmers, consultants and fertilizer retailers, while effectively addressing multiple environmental concerns.  The tool uses models and biophysical data to simulate field conditions and derive an optimum nitrogen rate recommendation. The tool is currently calibrated for use on about 95% of the US corn production area.  Adapt-N focuses on an important component of the solution: getting farmers to apply the right N fertilizer rate for a particular production environment that optimizes crop uptake and minimizes environmental losses, while also facilitating the use of other beneficial technologies like better N application timing, cover cropping, and use of enhanced efficiency products.

Adapt-N was developed at Cornell University and has been extensively documented in the scientific literature.  It was recently licensed for commercial use by the start-up company Agronomic Technology Corporation (ATC).  Adapt-N is Cloud-based and accessible through any internet-connected device that supports a web browser.  It was the first such technology solution based on the pioneering research of the Cornell-based team, starting in 2002. It is the only computational N technology that has scientifically proven its benefits in extensive on-farm validation studies (Sela et al., 2016; 2017) and the only N decision tool that has been positively evaluated by the Environmental Defense Fund’s NutrientStar program (http://nutrientstar.org/tool-finder/adapt-n/) for demonstrating gains in Nitrogen Use Efficiency and return to profit when compared with farmer practice. The tool was also selected as a finalists in the Tulane Nitrogen Reduction Challenge to combat hypoxia (bit. ly/Adapt-NTulaneChallenge) and received the AgProfessional Top Product of the Year Award for 2013. A video summary of the Adapt-N development process as part of lead inventor Harold van Es’ presentation at the 2016 World Economic Forum can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfpWpZtv3Kk.

Adapt-N addresses system complexity to generate location-specific recommendations, and integrates real-time weather information, as well as local soil and crop management factors. It is the result of long-term research efforts involving model development, parameter calibration, and field validation, which are documented in peer-reviewed publications. It also offers estimates of uncertainty around the recommended rate and provides tabular and graphical outputs that provide additional diagnostic information on simulated nitrogen dynamics.

Adapt-N is implemented through Cloud computing technologies that facilitate the desire for mobility, universal communication and data transfer through web services, allowing user access through any device (desktop, mobile, etc.) in any location with internet access.  In crop production, this is especially attractive as many users of computational services are often outside the traditional office environment (field, vehicle, etc.), but still desire direct access to web-based information. 

We have demonstrated “win-win” capabilities for Adapt-N’s precise N management approach: reduced environmental impacts with higher producer profits. Based on 152 multi-year on-farm strip trials in the Midwest and Northeast, we have demonstrated average reductions in N inputs by 29 lbs/ac, with the same yields and higher farmer profits ($29/ac).  We have also demonstrated that the use of Adapt-N can result in 35-40% reductions in leaching and gaseous losses of nitrogen.  Adapt-N offers an estimated 5-20x return on investment for growers, depending on the production environment.

Adapt-N was commercially launched in 2014 and is available in 35 states.  It allows for co-branding with agricultural retailers and thereby effectively engages the fertilizer trade sector, breaking down traditional barriers between the retail and environmental interests.  Adapt-N partners with several farm data platforms (agX , Agrian and FieldAlytics) to increase availability and ease of use.  An additional strength is its ability to enhance the benefits of other N management tools (cover crops, enhanced efficiency products, etc), thereby making them more attractive.   The tool has also gained attention from several environmental and sustainability-oriented initiatives that regard the tool as an important component of nutrient reduction strategies. 

Primary beneficiaries of Adapt-N are Northeast and Midwest corn producers using a variety of management styles and scales (Adapt-N is scale-neutral), but particularly those who already have sidedressing equipment. However, many of our collaborators report that the Adapt-N tool, and associated learning opportunities, are encouraging growers in their area to shift N application toward sidedressing, away from pre-plant application. The project is also benefiting agricultural service providers including consultants, extension personnel, NRCS and SWCD staff, and researchers, who can use the tool to teach about N dynamics and to provide better N management advice. Society is a secondary beneficiary through improved water quality, reduced greenhouse gas losses, and mitigation of climate change associated with better N management on the most common and environmentally impactful crop in the U.S. Using average N savings of 30 lb/ac and an estimating a total of 200,000 acres using Adapt-N recommendations, 2014, 2015 and 2016 use of the tool alone can be estimated to have reduced the amount of N applied to these fields by over 6,000,000 pounds, saving producers a total of at least $3M. 

For this project we have completed 3 seasons (2014-2016) of field trials in collaboration with ATC, Ag Consultants and Extension Agents. However, we have conducted multi-rate and side-by-side trials since 2011. From the data collected and published the project team concludes that use of the Adapt-N tool for informing sidedress application rates in corn should be strongly recommended and widely implemented in corn systems. The New Hampshire NRCS has already written the Adapt-N tool into their advanced 590 nutrient management practice options, and there is potential for the tool’s use to be widely incentivized through cost-shares by NRCS, non-profit, and other organizations. Implementing such additional incentives along with the inherent risk- and profit-related incentives from Adapt-N will aid in improving water quality, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, and helping producers adapt to variable early season weather and maintain profitability on broad acreages.  All recent publications are available on our website (http://adapt-n.cals.cornell.edu/research/).

We offered new indicators for the Soil Health Assessment in 2015 and for the first time offered a new, “basic” assessment as a streamlined introductory alternative to the comprehensive assessment. In 2017, we will continue examining how data from soil health assessments can be used in a beta version of Adapt-N to better inform recommendations. We continue to make progress educating stakeholders about the importance of adapting N inputs in corn systems to weather impacts by moving to dynamic N rate decisions made at sidedress time, and about the contributions of soil health to nitrogen dynamics through outreach and field demonstrations. 

Economic Analysis

Sela-et-al-2017-JEQ-Dynamic-Model-Improves-Agronomic

Adapt-N is a significant advancement over the existing static decision tools that offer generalized recommendations but do not consider seasonal conditions of weather, soil and crop management. The Adapt-N tool benefits the agricultural and environmental communities because we have demonstrated “win-win” capabilities for Adapt-N’s precise N management approach: Based on 152 multi-year on-farm strip trials in the Midwest and Northeast, we showed average reductions in N inputs by 29 lbs/ac, with the same yields and higher farmer profits ($29/ac).  We have also demonstrated that the use of Adapt-N can result in 35-40% reductions in leaching and gaseous losses of nitrogen.  Adapt-N offers an estimated 5-20x return on investment for growers, depending on the production environment. Through precise N rate recommendations tailored to a particular production environment, N rates and environmental losses can be significantly reduced, while also increasing field profitability.  We published several newsletter articles and two scientific manuscripts describing the economic and environmental benefits. See “Publications and Outreach” below.

There is a great need for improved soil health management decision making tools and implementation approaches. At the same time there is a lack of monetary incentives that would encourage voluntary adoption because the framework for improved land value assessment and lower crop insurance premiums based on soil health is nonexistent and in fact encourages risky production methods, degrading soil further. Currently there are a number of methods to provide site-specific assessment of soil health and provide management recommendations. We have developed two management tools that address the above concerns and can potentially make considerable positive impacts through enhancing the monetary value of soil health management: the Cornell Standard Soil Health Testing (SSHT) and management framework and the Adapt-N tool for precision nitrogen management in corn production (Adapt-N). They are both new tools that have demonstrated positive impacts on environmental indicators and also show potential for integrative use. We believe that the broader adoption of these decision tools provides exceptional “win-win” opportunities for enhancing farm productivity and providing monetary incentives while also reducing or minimizing environmental impacts through water quality/quantity reduction, greenhouse gas emission, and soil degradation and loss.

Farmer Adoption

Adapt-N (http://adapt-n.com) is a nitrogen technology solution that offers benefits for farmers, consultants and fertilizer retailers, while effectively ad­dressing multiple environmental concerns. Adapt-N focuses on an important component of the solution: getting farmers to apply the right N fertilizer rate for a particular production environment. When crop nitrogen uptake is optimized, environmental losses are minimized. The tool is currently calibrat­ed for use on about 95% of the US corn production area spanning 35 states.  Adapt-N’s user base is rapidly expanding and currently has subscriptions of farmers, consultants and fertilizer retailers across 20 US states, primarily in the Midwest and East.

The tool is mostly sold through wholesalers (con­sultants and retailers), a marketing strategy that allows for rapid scaling. Furthermore, the tool can be co-branded with these groups and thereby effectively engages the fertilizer trade sector, breaking down traditional barriers be­tween commercial and environmental interests.  The tool also facilitates the use of other beneficial technologies like better N application timing, cover cropping, and use of enhanced efficiency products. Adapt-N is Cloud-based and accessible through any internet-connected device that supports a web browser. In addition, it is compatible with several farm data platforms (agX , Agrian and FieldA­lytics) to increase availability and ease of use.

Adapt-N has also gained attention – including awards — from several environmental and sustainability-oriented initiatives that regard the tool as an important component of nutrient reduction strategies. Therefore, marketing is significantly focused around integration with environmental and corporate sustainability initiatives.

We have collected several stories over the years on the successful implementation of Adapt-N for corn Nitrogen management on farms.  We have done this with interviewing farmers and then publishing them in our quarterly newsletter. For example, Arnold Richardson and sons grow grain corn and soybean on 1000 acres in Central New York State. The Richardsons have long taken a weather-conscious approach to nitrogen management decisions, applying most N as sidedress to better match the timing of crop uptake. “That’s the best time,” says Arnold. “The corn is making big decisions about its future at the 5 – 8 collar stage. We try to help it make good decisions… we’ve got to keep the corn happy all the way through.” Despite the many management adjustments they have made, they had not yet adjusted their total N rates based on weather until using Adapt-N a few years ago.  The Richardsons established Adapt-N strip trials in corn grain following soybean.  Richardson also followed Adapt-N recommendations on the rest of the farm’s acres, “which resulted in a larger N bill than originally planned, but with a pleasing result yield-wise,” he says. One Adapt-N trial plot earned the farm fourth place in the Finger Lakes section of New York State Corn and Soybean Growers’ Association 2013 Yield Contest, at 232 bu/ac.

In Iowa, we worked with Shannon Gomes, owner of Cedar Basin Crop Consulting, who provides services for 25 farmers in Northeast Iowa.  He emphasizes a scientific approach in his work, advising clients and helping them run trials to assess the many available tools and products on their farms. Gomes had been searching for a better way to monitor nitrogen (N) availability and provide precise N recommendations. He’s tried “all the different nitrogen management tools,” with varying results, but has never been satisfied. When he stumbled upon Adapt-N in 2009, he found what he had been looking for: a real-time, location-specific adaptive N recommendation model that accounts for weather, management practices, and field variability. “When you compare Adapt-N to other tools… nothing even comes close,” says Gomes, “and I’ve used all of them!”   Adapt-N helped Gomes “stay ahead of the curve” – recognizing and correcting N shortage in a field before the crop showed signs of deficiency.  

Based on 152 multi-year on-farm strip trials in the Midwest and North­east, including trials with Richardson’s and Gomes’ fields, we have demonstrated average reductions in N inputs by 29 lbs/ ac and higher farmer profits ($29/ac). We have also demonstrat­ed that the use of Adapt-N can result in 35-40% reductions in leaching and gaseous losses of nitro­gen, thus significantly reducing N loss to waterways and minimizing greenhouse gas emissions. Adapt-N offers an estimated 5-20x return on investment for growers, depending on the production environment. With the successful implementation of Adapt-N in corn, the operators at Agronomic Technology Corp, decided the time was right to develop the tool for additional crops, beginning with wheat. The development of Adapt-N is complete and we expect a beta version to be made available soon.

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Areas needing additional study

Adapt-N has shown economic and environmental benefits, and we have seen some promising initial growth in adoption. There are still hurdles that need to be considered in the next years:

  • For research, concerns that need addressed center around:

(i) limited farm data availability for analytics,

(ii) the small researcher community and limited funding at universities in promising areas of DA,

(iii) limited capacity for highly innovative research initiatives and new management recommendations, and

(iv) limited partnerships between the present research-extension community and private sector agriculture and technology companies.

See more detail in – bit.ly/NYSDigitalAgReport

  • Digital agriculture technologies, like Adapt-N, reflect a shift from generalized management of farm resources towards highly optimized, individualized, real-time, hyper-connected and data-driven management, with the desired outcome of more profitable and sustainable systems. There is a need to address a key research gap, however, related to the architecting of systems that provide the greatest benefits. Notably, many digital agriculture technologies rely on sensors, simulation models, or data analytics, but these are almost never combined or integrated. The potential and opportunities of technology integration and optimum architectures needs to be researched. Cyber-Human-Biophysical Systems — such as multi-source sensing webs, advanced data fusion/analysis and model analytics, and adaptive multiscale data-enabled decision models with humans in the loop — can help solve these challenges.
  • Although we have been able to prove economic benefits, farmers, consultants and retailers still have a general perception that hardware (e.g., sensors) is the future for precision nutrient management (although most have not shown accurate recommendations for corn production). Based on the literature, Adapt-N in fact performs better than all other technologies. We currently have a number of grants awarded or pending to pivot the focus of our work from research to implementation of the tool on a large number of acres.
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.