Montana Wheat Farmers Improve Nutrient Use Efficiency Through Research Collaboration

(bright music) – My name is Richard Engel. My title is, I am associate
professor of soil science in the Department
of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences at Montana State University. The reason why we
conducted this project was to actually do some
on-farm measurements to determine how much
nitrogen is being lost following these top
dress applications of urea fertilizer
to the soil surface. Urea fertilizer is
particularly susceptible to nitrogen losses
as ammonia gas. The losses go into
the atmosphere, and they represent
both an economic and agronomic loss of
nitrogen fertilizer. – Nitrogen is a very
big input cost for us, so by mitigating the
losses of nitrogen, and improving our crops, it helps our bottom line. It makes our business so
much more sustainable, so we’re not wasting money and having lower yields
as a result of what we do. – [Voiceover] SARE’s Research
and Education grant program encourages sustainable
innovations and collaboration among
university researchers and America’s
farmers and ranchers. In Montana, Rick Engel worked
with a team of researchers and farmers to find ways
of applying fertilizer in wheat fields that minimize nitrogen
volatilization, or loss. – We originally thought
that when we spread urea on frozen or snowy
soils in the winter, that we had no
volatilization losses, but that’s not what we
were finding in actuality. We’ve actually changed
our seeding implement to where we can band a
great deal of our nitrogen fertilizer below the seed, and we no longer have the risk
of volatilization that way. And then on the urea
that we do broadcast and spread on top of the ground, we’ve adapted processes
where we watch the weather, and we spread it on dry ground, and ahead of known moisture
as a result of the study that’s shown to be the
lowest losses in that time. – [Voiceover] Rick and his
research team also tested the nitrogen losses
following the termination of a green manure
crop, or cover crop. In this case they
studied field peas. – The results of our
green manure study were that the losses following
termination of green manures were very minimal. And very little nitrogen
fertility was lost either by mowing that crop, or by spraying that crop
out with a herbicide. Basically, our project
showed that if a grower includes a green manure crop
as part of their rotation, they shouldn’t be too
concerned about nitrogen losses following the termination
of that green manure crop. – It’s been very rewarding
working with Rick and his team of researchers. I’d like to encourage
other producers to do on-farm trials because
then we get to the ground and we get to see
what we really need. You get first hand information and become part of the solution, and it really helps you
advance in your education. (bright music) This was a landmark
study because we knew we were losing nitrogen, we just didn’t know
how we were losing it. So this has changed management
practices in Montana, and it’s helped us to
realize how we apply and utilize our fertilizer and make us so much
more efficient. (bright music)

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