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Expect nitrogen sensing technology to take off soon

Expect nitrogen sensing technology to take off soon
Company sales reps believe nitrogen sensing technology is ready to blossom.

Look closely at the yellow and black, oblong, box-shaped device on top of the tractor cab. What is it? Here's a hint. It's not a GPS unit. The cab has a GPS receiver mounted on it, but this isn't it.

Related: Corn Nutrition, Nitrogen Use Varies Between Fields

Instead, it's Topcon's remote nitrogen sensing product. It's not new – the technology has been under development for a while and the product has been available for a while as well. And there are two other competitors offering nitrogen sensing products on the market.

Crop sensor: This Topcon unit reads the color of plants, and turns that into desired nitrogen rates to be applied, all in split-second fashion on the go.

However, Topcon believes their product is ready to take off and become much more widely used. They see a real interest in being able to change nitrogen rates on-the- go both in wheat and in crops like corn so that farmers can get more efficient use of their investment in nitrogen, one of the most costly ingredients to both a good wheat and corn crop.

Used more in wheat than in corn at first, this unit is now finding a home on more Midwest farms where corn is one of the major crops than it did in the past, officials say.

Compared to other systems on the market, this product has two distinctions, sales reps say. First, it uses a sensing technology different than what any other sensor uses. The object is still the same – measure the amount of green color in the plants, and use it to correlate to nitrogen. The ultimate goal is split second, on-the-go decisions about how much N should be applied. As the operator, you can program in what you want different ranges found by the sensor to represent in terms of how much nitrogen is applied in that location.

Related: One Way to Determine Nitrogen Levels in Corn Fields

Second, because the technology is different, it can be mounted higher, in this case on the cab, and reads across a bigger area of the crop than some other competitive models.

You can either use this unit to directly change rates on-the-go, via a computer, or you can drive the field ahead of time and make prescription maps based on the readings found with the sensor.

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