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Corn+Soybean Digest

Technology Is The Answer To Higher Fertilizer Prices

“Just last month Agrium, one of the world’s largest nitrogen fertilizer suppliers, announced a $21 million third quarter North American wholesale revenue gain from a 44% increase in average realized selling price over last year,” he said. “It’s bad news for farmers, but I believe they can find financial relief in new precision application systems.”

Raun is a member of OSU’s agricultural research station team that has developed a sensor-based variable rate fertilizer system, which last year won the USDA Secretary’s award “as the most revolutionary method for fertilizing crops in a century.”

Called GreenSeeker,, the system--attached to fertilizer applicator booms--emits and captures infrared and near infrared beams of light that measure the color and health of crop plants, then delivers, in a fraction of a second, the precise amount of fertilizer needed for maximum yield. The system works equally well day or night when reduced wind drift eliminates over spraying.

“GreenSeeker has been tested in farmer wheat fields with nitrogen use efficiencies improved by more than 20% and farmer revenue increased by $10-18 per acre, Raun explained. “In addition to the savings in fertilizer, GreenSeeker, which recognizes and treats each two-foot-square area in farmer fields based on a predicted yield potential, can actually increase cereal grain yields using less nitrogen.”

The current methods of applying fertilizers in farmer fields is to apply a flat or uniform rate to the entire field based on a yield goal or the amount of crop you hope to grow, Raun said.

This technology solution comes at a time when news media are reporting a huge cost burden for farmers as prices for natural gas, an essential element of nitrogen fertilizer production, skyrocket and global supplies remain tight.

The story is the same for all farmers, from corn farmers in Indiana to wheat farmers across the northern Great Plains states and the Prairie Provinces, according to Raun, who notes: “Improved nitrogen use efficiencies, now at a world average of just 33 per cent, will significantly decrease environmental risk associated with the use of nutrients in crop production, and increase economic profitability to farmers.”

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