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Optimizing Variable Rate Nitrogen Fertilizer Application in Fields with Spatial Variability

Lead Researcher Ross McKenzie
Co-Researcher(s) Doon Pauly, Eric Bremer, Mike Wobick, Virginia Nelson
Start Date April 2010
End Date May 2014
Funding Partners ACIDF, Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions
Status Complete

The Challenge

Agronomic research and knowledge to develop variable rate fertilizer (VRF) prescription maps are lacking for the Canadian prairies.

The Project

Correlate crop yield response to nitrogen fertilizer rates from fields across Alberta with variable landscape through various physical and chemical soil and topographic factors.

The Results

VRF could attribute an additional $15-$76 per ha compared to a blanket fertilizer rate. These numbers were based on economic analysis of fertilizer prices, yield and crop values. Additional management/consulting expenses and cost of VRF equipment were not factored into the analysis. Currently, the immediate future for VRF is not economically beneficial and more research is required.

Grower Benefits

Although there is the potential of VRF to benefit the environment, the technology must develop further to be more cost-effective and reliable for Alberta farmers.

Keywords: Variable Rate, Nitrogen, Spatial Variability, VRF, Fertilizer

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