Using forage yield monitors to improve nutrient recycling and environmental protection

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2012: $14,991.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Grant Recipient: Cornell University
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Quirine Ketterings
Cornell University


  • Agronomic: corn, grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Animal Products: dairy


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, manure management
  • Crop Production: application rate management, crop rotation, nutrient cycling
  • Education and Training: extension, farmer to farmer, mentoring, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, integrated crop and livestock systems

    Proposal abstract:

    Whole farm evaluations have shown that the most difficult information to collect for farms is crop yields,especially for hay (alfalfa/grass) fields. In addition, on-farm research, a great tool for adaptive management, is hindered by lack of a practical way to collect hay yield data for farm- scale plots. In recent years, forage yield monitors have become available and they are currently primarily used for corn silage. Both the use of an accurate yield monitoring tool and the application of this tool/technology for on-farm testing of management alternatives aid in obtaining long-term sustainability for farms (adaptive management). Recent discussions with farmers showed their interest in evaluating the performance of yield monitors for alfalfa/grass fields. In this study, we propose to work with three farms in NY to collect alfalfa/grass forage yield data with yield monitors to(1) determine their accuracy; and (2) evaluate potential for their use for on-farm strip trials. Three NY farms (4 fields per farm) will participate and collect calibration data for 2 hay harvests. Based on field maps, an on-farm research protocol will be developed. A combination of on-farm demonstrations, factsheets and farmer impact stories, together with a user-guide and decision-aids will allow farms to learn how to implement adaptive management to achieve optimum nutrient use efficiency on a field-by-field basis. This project is expected to have positive impacts on farm economics, field management, and the environment through reduction of the total amount of nutrients brought onto farms.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project aims to use three demonstration farms across New York State (Northern, Central, Western) to teach forage growers how to use newly accessible technologies to evaluate farm performance and improve conservation and farm profitability by increasing nutrient use efficiency over time.
    Objectives include:
    1. Evaluation of the accuracy of yield monitors for determination of hay field yields.
    2. Documenting standard protocols and developing necessary support tools that enhance adoption and integration of yield data collection into decision-making for improved nutrient use efficiency on a field by field basis and across the whole farm.
    3. Demonstrating the use of yield data on three farms to improve conservation through increased nutrient use efficiencies on a field by field and whole farm level.
    4. Documenting methods for obtaining and combining yield data with crop records.
    5. Encouraging more farms to consider yield monitoring technology for enhanced environmental management over time.

    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.