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Interactive tool: Explore an on-farm corn research plot studying nitrogen economics in Minnesota

By: Extension educator Greg Klinger, Extension digital learning designer Alison Holland, and Extension communications specialist Paul McDivitt

Have you ever been curious about what goes into University of Minnesota nutrient management research plots?

With this interactive tool, Extension educator Greg Klinger takes you on a virtual journey through one of the nitrogen management studies he worked on with U of M soil scientist Jeff Vetsch in 2019. Like others conducted across the state every year, this on-farm trial near Elgin, Minnesota explored which nitrogen rate and timing are most economical for Minnesota corn growers. Learn how U of M researchers study nitrogen management and calculate the most profitable nitrogen rate.

The tool combines aerial drone imagery, 360-degree images, and embedded videos, data, and graphs. Data come from presidedress nitrate tests, chlorophyll sensors, preplant and residual soil nitrate tests, basal stalk tests, and more.

How to use the tool

We recommend watching the video introduction first. Click on the video icon in the tool above. Then dive into the different trials by clicking on those icons.

The 360-degree images were taken on August 20, 2019 near Elgin, Minnesota. Compare and contrast how the corn looks for each of the rates at this stage in development. How green are the plants? Is there any leaf yellowing, and how far up the plant? How many leaves are senescing at the base of the plant?

Click on the icons to see different data points, such as grain yield, soil test data, and plant tissue testing data. There are also videos to help you understand and interpret the data. How and why do U of M researchers take these tests? What do different values mean?

Here's an example of one of the interactive 360-degree images (click on the image to scroll around, then click on the icons to view data, videos, and more):

Why is this research important?

Conducting nitrogen trials on farms across a wide swath of Minnesota helps U of M researchers determine appropriate nitrogen management for different conditions. In particular, weather can greatly impact nitrogen needs for corn crops. Weather, soil type, and management history can all interact in determining how much nitrogen corn will respond to. These trials generate university-recommended nitrogen rates and provide a better understanding of when corn fields need more or less nitrogen than recommended.

Thank you to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) for funding this research project through the Clean Water Fund. Thank you to staff members at MDA and Fillmore County Soil & Water Conservation District for helping with the plot work.


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Support for Minnesota Crop News nutrient management blog posts is provided in part by the Agricultural Fertilizer Research & Education Council (AFREC).
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