Developing a practical guide to using the CSNT and ISNT for improved nitrogen balances on dairy farms

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2012: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Dr. Quirine Ketterings
Cornell University

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Agronomic: corn
  • Animal Products: dairy


  • Animal Production: manure management
  • Crop Production: crop rotation, nutrient cycling, application rate management, tissue analysis
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, budgets/cost and returns
  • Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration, soil stabilization
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, integrated crop and livestock systems
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil analysis, nutrient mineralization, soil chemistry, soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    This project, initiated by ideas from two dairy farmers, aims to identify a more practical and effective sampling process for two nitrogen management tools: the Illinois Soil Nitrogen Test (ISNT) and Corn Stalk Nitrate Test (CSNT). With the continuing rise in crop input costs farm mangers are interested in tools that allow them to properly credit nutrients they have on the farm and minimizing purchased fertilizer. The ISNT and CSNT are tools that illustrate to farmers where they can make adjustments to N management on corn and minimize purchased inputs. While farm managers see the value of the CSNT and ISNT information, they are interested in finding more efficient and lower cost methods to gather the samples and run the tests. A blooming partnership between two New York dairy farms and a Cornell research and extension team provides an opportunity to test different sampling techniques that provide accurate and reliable results. This project will address three practicality questions raised by farmers: (1) can CSNT samples be collected after harvest rather than walking through standing corn (time reduction); (2) can certain fields be targeted or should the whole farm be sampled; and (3) what is the cost of sample collection and testing compared to the benefits of reduced N fertilizer. The farm-research partnership will result in a farmer-friendly approach to using the CSNT and ISNT, and materials (fact sheet, post cards, web articles) will be developed to deliver this information to a broad producer audience.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Two local farms will work with campus staff to evaluate implementation protocols for the ISNT and the CSNT and develop a more farmer-friendly approach to assessing performance for whole farm N fertilizer and manure use decision making. Each farm team will compare targeted (some fields only) and whole farm (all fields) approaches to evaluate the effectiveness of the tool package in reducing risk of both over and under fertilization (i.e. in generating confidence that changes can be made). Each farm team together with the NMSP staff will conduct a cost/benefit analysis of different protocol approaches. The analysis will compare the cost of implementation, using both old and newly-adapted sampling and implementation strategies, to the fertilizer saving benefits realized using the information provided by the tests. The results of the three practicality studies will provide the guidance needed to develop a new sampling protocol that requires less labor but is still accurate and will allow greater adoption by other farms.

    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.