Blog Series: Three Strategies to Better Manage Your Nitrogen in 2020

Nitrogen Strategy #1 of 3: Play Favorites with your Acres

Part #1
Part #3

Nine out of 10 farmers and agronomists agree: nitrogen is the corn input most likely to be voted “highest maintenance.” Based on USDA ERS estimates, in 2018 growers applied a state average of 113 to 172 lbs N/ac, at an average $0.37/lb N, putting nitrogen as the number two biggest expense on many operations, coming in between $42 to $64/acre. Given that these are state averages, certain fields with higher yield potential likely utilize even higher amounts of nitrogen.

But while it’s expensive, it’s also a delicate balancing act. Without sufficient amounts of nitrogen, corn will under-yield, and if over-applied, extra money is wasted, along with downstream effects to the environment.

To help growers optimize their N investment, Granular Agronomy Nitrogen Management has developed the industry’s leading nitrogen model, built on the premise that every acre you farm is unique — and that you’ll better utilize your N by managing zones within fields. We call these Decision Zones, and we believe they’re the key to making the best agronomic input decisions possible. Granular Agronomy Decision Zones rely on three distinct layers of data to help growers plan at a sub-field level:

  • Proprietary Environmental Response Units (ERU) based on the Soil Survey Geographic (SSURGO) database and high-resolution elevation data. Think of this as soil maps on steroids. We reposition typical soil maps to include high resolution elevation data — giving a much clearer picture of soil potential.
  • Multi-year yield analysis. We utilize multiple years of yield data to determine historical areas of low, medium and high production. This layer intersects the ERUs to provide even greater clarity on yield capability.
  • Irrigation – If a field has irrigation, zones are created to denote irrigated and non-irrigated. Different yield targets can be set accordingly, and irrigated zones utilize user-entered irrigation events, including fertigation and well-water nitrate credits.

By crunching all of this powerful historical data, Decision Zones allow you to customize not only nitrogen, but also seeding and fertility at the sub-field level. Yield targets for each specific decision zone are set, allowing growers to customize their N applications with greater insight than state university calculators or even their own experience.

In addition to these field layers, the Granular Agronomy Nitrogen Management utilizes 20 years of weather history from Corteva and IBM/The Weather Company to provide a wide range of scenarios. By running different scenarios, we can help answer questions such as:

  • What happens if we have a drought like last year?
  • How does my plan need to change if we have an extremely wet year?

The model also has the creds from both farmers and fellow scientists to back it up. To date, Granular Agronomy + N services have been used on millions of acres in the U.S. On average, the farmers who have used it have:

  • Boosted Profits: $27/Acre return
  • Reduced Inputs: 9 pounds less nitrogen per acre
  • Increased Yield 6 bu/A increase

In late 2019, the US Patent Office also validated the effectiveness of Decision Zones by awarding the Granular team a patent, saying the zones are novel in their approach of using weather, environmental management zones (soils and management), and crop modeling to estimate crop requirements. In addition, Granular was awarded the “Most Sound Science” award at the 2019 Nitrogen Use Efficiency Workshop in Columbia, MO, attended by many of the top universities working on nitrogen management.

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“Ultimately, by managing the variability that exists within a given field, we can more effectively use our resources and improve our bottom line in a tight margin environment,” said Dan Hansen, a Granular Agronomy certified service agent in southwest Iowa. Listen to Dan share how Decision Zones have made a difference for the growers he works with here.

Stay tuned for the top two ways to manage your nitrogen in coming posts. If you want to learn more about Decision Zones and how they can benefit your acres, call us at 888-435-4726 or schedule a demo at granular.ag/agronomy.

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