Last week, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled against the Des Moines Water Works lawsuit which targets three counties in Iowa (and more specifically, farming practices) for nitrate contamination in the water supply. (http://www.agriculture.com/news/crops/iowa-supreme-court-rules-against-des-moines-water-works-in-lawsuit)
I thought this would be an appropriate time to talk about some things we are doing on our farm to help manage nitrogen in our fields. The amount of technology used in farming today often surprises people. It really has changed and improved almost every aspect of farming, including nitrogen management.
Nitrogen is essential to growing corn. When trying to make sure that our growing crop has enough nitrogen throughout the growing season, there are many variables we have to deal with. The soil structure is constantly changing throughout the year. The weather arguably plays the largest role in managing nitrogen effectively.
Thanks to tremendous advances in technology, we are able to monitor the nitrogen levels in our fields. As we near planting time this coming spring, we’ll use a nitrogen management tool to assess the levels in our fields and determine how much we need to apply in order to achieve our yield goals. Then, as the growing season progresses, we will monitor the nitrogen levels to ensure the growing crop has enough at the key stages of growth. If we start running low, we can apply more nitrogen at that time, but only if necessary. This technology, like most things, isn’t perfect but it’s a heck of a lot better than guessing. The goal is to not over-apply or under-apply but rather give the growing crop the right amount when it needs it most.
There’s an app for that! We can even use an app on our smart phones to monitor the nitrogen levels in our fields. At any given time, we can pull up the app and check a specific field to see what the nitrogen level currently is and what it predicts it will be in the future to make sure we have enough nitrogen to finish out the crop. It takes into account the weather to date as well as the forecast. So, if we get a big rain in early June, we can check the nitrogen levels in our fields and see how much, if any, nitrogen we lost due to the rain. If we’re planning a nitrogen application, we look at the near term weather forecast and if rain is coming, we will hold off on the application to prevent nitrogen loss. Pretty cool stuff, right?
This is just one way that we’re doing our part to utilize our resources as responsibly as possible. As I sit here writing this tonight, I sure am thankful for safe drinking water, my corn fed family and the fact that I get to live in the greatest country on Earth. God bless the U.S.A. and all the farmers that feed us.