CTIC founded the Indian Creek Watershed Project to increase adoption of conservation agricultural systems and measure effectiveness of different nutrient management practices.
Over 120 farmers, agribusiness, government and non-profit organization representatives attended last month’s Indian Creek Watershed Project field tour in Livingston County, Ill., hosted by CTIC and our public and private partners. These include Livingston County Soil and Water Conservation District, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (with funds from Section 319 of the Clean Water Act), Agrium Advanced Technologies, AGROTAIN International, The Fertilizer Institute, Monsanto, Mosaic, Illinois Corn Marketing Board, Agri Drain Corporation, Case IH, John Deere, ADM and International Plant Nutrition Institute. Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association and Illinois Soybean Association contributed funds to defray costs of the tour.
Each field tour stop represented conservation agricultural systems focused on efficient nutrient management and products, practices and technology that can boost profitable farming and improve water quality.
The slow release fertilizer demonstration at Herb Steffen’s farm featured a controlled-release nitrogen (N) source ( Agrotain’s SuperU) to boost N use efficiency. Nitrogen loss starts the moment the farmer applies fertilizer and can add up over time. SuperU blocks the enzyme urease to prevent N loss into the air. This technology allows the crop to access N immediately, but controls losses in critical weeks after application.
The Steffen site also demonstrated SuperU with a small-plot N use efficiency rate demonstration, which will help determine the most efficient rate for the location and season.
A soil test at the Steffen site showed a relatively low phosphorus (P) level, so we developed a demonstration of Mosaic’s Micro-Essentials (MESZ) applied as a side-dress (plant nutrients placed on or in the soil near the roots of a growing crop) to provide an additional boost in available P.
MESZ allows uniform nutrient distribution and provides essential nutrients in one granule. Two forms of sulfur provide season-long nutrition. We side-dressed MESZ at two rates and established a control plot where it was not applied.
At the Norman Harms farm we featured the benefits of N fertilizer split application. Farmers applying N close to the time it will be used by the crop avoid costly waste.
This demonstration compares 3 application times: fall, spring, and split application (½ applied in fall and ½ applied in spring).
A second demonstration at Harms’ compares the full recommended N rate with a reduced rate (85% of recommended rate) using a controlled-release source, ESN®.
ESN® technology delivers N all season, allowing the crop to reach full genetic potential. The polymer coating helps prevent against N loss to surface water, subsurface drainage and groundwater, benefitting water quality.
Crop Production Services provided a John Deere 2510H nutrient applicator to apply fertilizer for this demonstration.
We stopped at John Traub’s farm to learn about strip-till N application.
In this system, the farmer uses real-time kinematic (RTK) precision guidance to apply N fertilizer in fall or early spring in a closely-controlled location where the seed will be sown.
Strip-till systems combine soil drying and warming benefits of conventional tillage and soil-protecting advantages of no-till by disturbing only the portion of soil that will contain the seed row.
At Traub’s we used fall-applied N with an RTK strip-till system and will compare it to a conventional chisel plow system.
We also compared N use efficiency (NUE) rates with field-scale equipment, so the farmer can apply the rate treatments and harvest the plots without interrupting his normal production routine. Every farmer can adopt this simple practice.