New technologies for improving sustainability of corn N management
This project aims to enhance N management while also increasing the adoption of cover crop and soil health management practices in corn production. 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.
While generally recommending lower rates, average yield was not significantly different between Adapt-N and Grower rates therefore Adapt-N provides the opportunity for a win-win scenario, as applying a more precise rate at each location results not only in producer profits, but also in decreased GHG losses, and reduced N losses to surface and groundwater. We have collected the 2016 trial data and are in the process of analysis.
Adapt-N was licensed at the end of 2013 and became available for commercial use in the spring of 2014. Adapt-N received the AgProfessional Top Product of the Year Award for 2013, Walmart named Adapt-N the top-rated nitrogen management tool and it was named a winner in General Mill’s Global Innovation Challenge, which aims to reduce the environmental impacts of farming. Adapt-N is 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/) and the tool was recently selected as a finalist in the Tulane Nitrogen Reduction Challenge to combat hypoxia.
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.
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.
- 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: 1,602 achieved by December 2015; In 2016 alone we directly reached 3,250 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. Status- Completed: (Feb‐Apr 2014). As of 10/31/16 there were 72 collaborators with grower accounts 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.
- 30 new farmers and 10 new advisors request accounts to use the updated Adapt‐N version in 2014. Status- Completed: (Jan‐June 2014). As of 10/31/16 there were 72 collaborators with grower accounts 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.
- 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. Status – Completed: (Apr‐Nov 2014) We have accomplished this milestone during 2014 and 2015. In 2015 we worked with 12 project collaborators who in turn worked with 34 farms implementing 41 field trials. In 2016 we worked with 6 farms, 3 research farms, with 17 side-by-side (grower vs. Adapt-N) and multi-rate rate trials in New York.
- 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: (Apr‐Nov 2014). 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. 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 to get this in there and expect it to be implemented for the spring of 2017.
- At least 50 users answer end‐of‐season 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 complementary 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: (Aug 2014‐Mar 2015) 1,602 achieved 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: (Aug 2014‐Apr 2015) The 12 advisors affecting 34 farms was achieved in 2015. Since the tool has been licensed, some of the education responsibilities have transferred to them the company. However, we published the Adapt-N manual in 2014 (https://blogs.cornell.edu/newadaptn/files/2015/11/adapt-n-manual-1aqedxv.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).
- 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 collaborators with grower accounts 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.
- 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: (Apr‐Aug 2015). In 2014 we implemented 68 trials on 44 farms and 3 research farms working with 13 Ag service providers. In 2015, working with 3 Ag Service Providers, we implemented 18 separate trials on 11 farms in NY and Iowa and 3 research farms in NY. In 2016 we worked with 6 farms, 3 research farms, with 17 side-by-side (grower vs. Adapt-N) and multi-rate rate trials in New York. As of December 31st, 2016 we have implemented trials at 103 locations on 61 farms.
- 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.
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 150 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. 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 about updates related to Adapt-N.
Research and Adapt-N Improvements
The tool’s accuracy and precision have been evaluated through on-farm trials and improved in response to performance and user feedback. 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 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.
Economic and environmental performance of Adapt-N was assessed for all 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. These results were published in a series of newsletters and journal articles:
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.
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
Impacts and Contributions/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. 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 technology that has scientifically proven its benefits in extensive on-farm validation studies, and the only N decision tool that has received the formal stamp of approval from the Environmental Defense Fund’s NutrientStar program (http://nutrientstar.org/tool-finder/adapt-n/). 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 44 lb/ac and an approximate 100,000 acres using Adapt-N recommendations, 2015 use of the tool can be estimated to have reduced the amount of N applied to these fields by over 4,000,000 pounds, saving producers a total of at least $2-3M.
For this project we have completed 3 seasons (2014-2016) of field trials in collaboration with Agronomic Technology Corporation, 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/pubs/index.html).
Senior Research Associate
1016 Bradfield, Department of Crop and Soil Sciences
Ithaca, NY 14853
Office Phone: 6072279172
4510 Regent St.
Madison, WI 53705
Office Phone: 6082321425
Consultant and Owner
Champlain Valley Agronomics
10 Train Rd
Peru, NY 12972
Office Phone: 5186432360
Bradfield Hall, Room 1005
Crops and Soil Sciences
Ithaca, NY 14853
Office Phone: 6072555629
Director, Agricultural Analytical Services Laboratory
Penn State University
University Park, PA 16802
Office Phone: 8148659155
Field Crops Resource Educator
Cornell Cooperative Extension Association of Cayuga County
248 Grant Ave
Auburn, NY 13021
Office Phone: 3152551183
4510 Regent St.
Madison, WI 53705
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Durham, NH 03861
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Lowville, NY 13367
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W. H. Miner Institute
1034 Miner Farm Road, P.O. Box 90
Chazy, NY 12921
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1001 Bradfield, Department of Crop and Soil Sciences
Ithaca, NY 14853
Office Phone: 3177217645
Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory
100300 Baltimore Ave
Beltsville, MD 20705-2350
Office Phone: 3015045324
Cornell Cooperative Extension Association of Suffolk County
3059 Sound Ave
Riverhead, NY 11901
Office Phone: 6317273595
1004 Bradfield, Department of Crop and Soil Sciences
Ithaca, NY 14853
Office Phone: 6072276055
515 Bradfield, Department of Crop and Soil Sciences
Ithaca, NY 14853
Office Phone: 6072554964
BMP Challenge, Agflex, Inc.
4510 Regent St.
Madison, WI 53705
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1007 Bradfield, Department of Crop and Soil Sciences
Ithaca, NY 14853
Executive Managing Consultant
Western NY Crop Management Association
5242 Curtis Rd
Warsaw, NY 14569
Office Phone: 5857865831
University of Vermont
278 South Main St, Suite 2
St. Albans, VT 05478
Office Phone: 8025246501
Pennsylvania State University
423 Agricultural Sciences and Industries Building
University Park, PA 16802
Office Phone: 8148631014