Field Days Featured Tools for Farm Profitability



Matt Rhine, University of Missouri Delta Center, reviewed proper application of nitrogen on rice.
Photo courtesy of Kathleen Logan-Smith

Photo courtesy of Kathleen Logan-Smith



Field Days Featured Tools for Farm Profitability

By Christa Martin-Jones

At a field day held July 24, approximately 50 Southeast Missouri agricultural producers and agricultural advisors learned about nitrogen management tools to help farmers’ bottom lines. Participants in the free event, Profitability through Nitrogen Efficiency, visited two research sites to hear from experts about ongoing studies and results. The morning session on rice was held at Missouri Rice Research Farm west of Malden, Mo. Afternoon participants visited the Jim Stuever farm, northwest of Bernie, to discuss efficient use of nitrogen on corn and cotton.

Dr. Peter Scharf, University of Missouri, demonstrated “on-the-go” nitrogen management equipment.

Photo courtesy of Kathleen Logan-Smith

During the morning session, David Dunn shared results of a three-year comparison of nitrogen stabilizer products on rice. Dunn is a supervisor at the Delta Regional Soils Testing Lab at the University of Missouri Delta Center, Portageville, Mo.

For 12 years Dunn has conducted field research to support the MU soil test recommendation system. His research emphasizes in season crop nutrient management, primarily for rice. Dunn’s study will continue to be conducted at two locations representing the two major soil types used for rice production in Missouri. At each location, rice was cultivated using the standard methods of phosphorus and potassium fertilization, water management, and weed and insect control for dry-seeded, delayed flood rice in Southeast Missouri. At both locations four pre-plant nitrogen rates (35, 70, 105, and 140 lbs nitrogen/acre) were compared to an untreated area. No additional nitrogen was applied. At both locations the following products were compared: urea, urea + Agrotain® (Agrotain, International, St Louis, Mo.), urea + NSN (NutriSphere-N™, Specialty Fertilizer Products, Belton, Mo.), and urea + Upgrade. At each location the nitrogen fertilizers will be applied seven days prior to flood establishment. At season’s end, researchers harvested each rice plot and measured the resulting yield.

Dunn also discussed how producers could maximize yields and minimize fertilizer costs by interpreting and applying the results of soil tests on their fields. The Delta Center’s Matt Rhine discussed in-season nitrogen application. “To apply the optimal nitrogen rate, we detect and correct nitrogen needs during the growing season,” said Rhine, who has worked as a research associate for over four years. His work has included developing and conducting research concerning production practices and nutrient management on several crops, including rice.

The afternoon featured Dr. Peter Scharf’s presentation of “on-the-go” nitrogen sensors. With this technology, optical sensors attached to the front of a tractor or fertilizer applicator measure plant size and color. A computer tells the applicator where and how much fertilizer to apply as the farmer drives. Dr. Peter Scharf is an associate professor at the University of Missouri Division of Plant Sciences. He is interested in developing and promoting methods to optimize nutrient application rates and to minimize nutrient movement to surface and ground water.

Scott Crumpecker, RC & D coordinator, speaks to area high school students on nitrogen management and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). The program encourages agricultural and forestry producers to maintain existing conservation activities and adopt additional ones on their operations.

Photo courtesy of Daily Dunklin Democrat

All sessions helped educate participants how emerging technology can pinpoint their nitrogen applications to crop needs, so less fertilizer is wasted.

Organizers also participated in the September 2 University of Missouri Delta Center Field Day. USDA NRCS Resource Conservation & Development Coordinator Scott Crumpecker spoke to field day participants, including area high school students. He highlighted nitrogen management, issues related to the Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone, and how agricultural producers can fine tune their nitrogen application practices to save money and benefit water quality. Mike Milam, University of Missouri Extension Service, spoke with high school students about how watersheds work and how we all have an impact on water quality downstream.

For more information on efficient use of nitrogen, or future educational opportunities, contact David Dunn, University of Missouri Delta Center, at 573-379-5431 or

Profitability Through Nitrogen Efficiency was provided through efforts of the Bootheel Nutrient Management Committee funded in part by Assistance Agreement number MX964472 between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Conservation Technology Information Center. This project is being performed in conjunction with the Missouri Rice Research and Merchandising Council, the Conservation Technology Information Center, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Bootheel Resource Conservation & Development and University of Missouri Cooperative Extension Service.

About the Writer: Christa Martin-Jones is a CTIC project director.