Reference strips and precision sensors for increased nitrogen use efficiency in wheat production

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional + Producer
Funds awarded in 2013: $1,960.75
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: Western
State: Idaho
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Olga Walsh
University of Idaho

Information Products


  • Agronomic: wheat


  • Crop Production: fertilizers

    Proposal abstract:

    Our project is focused on educating and training wheat producers on how sensor-based technologies can increase the efficiency and profitability of their farm operations. Precision sensors enable to develop crop-specific and site-specific yield potential-based topdress nitrogen recommendations and to increase nitrogen use efficiency.

    The field research plots were established at the University of Idaho Research & Extension Center, Parma, Idaho. Spring wheat was seeded using a 5-foot research drill. The demo plots included a range of nitrogen fertilizer rates from 0 to 200 lb N/a applied in a strip using dry granular urea fertilizer at Feekes 5 growth stage (tillering). The 200 lb N/a fertilized plots were used as the non-limiting nitrogen reference strips. The plots were irrigated every 7 days using subsurface drip irrigation system buried at 8 inch depth. The amount of water to be applied at each irrigation event is determined by using Agrimet crop water use evapotranspiration-based model for spring cereal crops. The crop canopy reflectance measurements are being taken throughout the growing season to access crop nutrient status. The research plots will be used as visual aids during the annual Cereal Field Day organized for growers in late June at Parma Research & Extension Center. The response of wheat to varying nitrogen fertilizer rates will be discussed. The visual crop ratings will be compared to the precision sensor readings. Sensors will be introduced to growers as tools for precision nitrogen management. An extension publication – “Efficient Nitrogen Management with Reference Strips and Crop Sensors” – will be produced in collaboration with the University of Idaho College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Educational Communications office. The publications will be distributed to field day attendees and at extension outreach events, commodity schools and grower seminars. A graduate student will continue his training on precision sensors use and in conducting agricultural research.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Specific objectives are:

    1. To establish on-farm studies to demonstrate that non-limiting nitrogen reference strips - in combination with precision sensing methodologies – can be effectively used to accurately determine wheat demand for nitrogen.
    2. To educate and train wheat growers on how sensor-based technologies can increase the efficiency and profitability of their wheat production operations.
    3. To train graduate research assistants to utilize sensor-based technologies and to conduct on-farm research.

    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.