On-the-go Nitrogen Sensing and Fertilizer Control for Site-specific Crop Management

  • Kim, Y. (USDA-ARS, Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory) ;
  • Reid, J.F. (John Deer Technology Center) ;
  • Han, S. (John Deer Ag Management Solutions)
  • Published : 2006.06.30


In-field site-specific nitrogen (N) management increases crop yield, reduces N application to minimize the risk of nitrate contamination of ground water, and thus reduces farming cost. Real-time N sensing and fertilization is required for efficient N management. An 'on-the-go' site-specific N management system was developed and evaluated for the supplemental N application to com (Zea mays L.). This real-time N sensing and fertilization system monitored and assessed N fertilization needs using a vision-based spectral sensor and controlled the appropriate variable N rate according to N deficiency level estimated from spectral signature of crop canopies. Sensor inputs included ambient illumination, camera parameters, and image histogram of three spectral regions (red, green, and near-infrared). The real-time sensor-based supplemental N treatment improved crop N status and increased yield over most plots. The largest yield increase was achieved in plots with low initial N treatment combined with supplemental variable-rate application. Yield data for plots where N was applied the latest in the season resulted in a reduced impact on supplemental N. For plots with no supplemental N application, yield increased gradually with initial N treatment, but any N application more than 101 kg/ha had minimal impact on yield.