SENSOR OVERLOAD. With profit margins tighter, nutrient management specialists must have acute knowledge of nutrient variability seen on farms. Remote sensing technology is helping no-tillers identify, and treat in-crop nutrient deficient areas of their field.

Carving Out a Nitrogen Management Niche with Crop Sensing Technologies

The ability to quickly calculate and make in-crop nutrient and crop protection application adjustments can put more bushels in the bin.

Optical sensors attached to sprayers and sidedress machines collect and use data in real time, giving no-tillers and strip-tillers the ability to tailor nitrogen (N) prescriptions for fields. 

But while the evolution of the technology has the capability to give farmers the tools and data to make timely, sometimes real-time management decisions, some wariness, understandably, remains as to the true value of remote sensing technology.

At its best, information generated by sensor technology offers, “a real, well-rounded perspective on how the soil and plant are interacting within any given season, any environmental interaction,” says Dr. Ray Asebedo, former assistant professor of precision agriculture at Kansas State University, and current agronomic consultant for Topcon Agriculture. 

The ultimate goal, he says, is to keep the focus on farming, “and at the same time put technology to work by good agronomic sciences improving profit-per-acre.”

Step by Step

Interest in optical sensor technologies, or sensor technology in general, has increased in precision agriculture because of rising input costs. With profit margins tighter, nutrient management specialists must have acute knowledge of nutrient variability seen on farms. 

“What happens is, we have to be able to make nutrient recommendations that are just the right rate applied at the right time, in order to help reduce our input cost without sacrificing yield,” Asebedo says, “which ultimately will improve profit per acre.”

An understanding of the benefits of this technology for nutrient management requires a step back to first look at core fertility. Sensor technology or not, soil…

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