In the dynamic world of modern agriculture, farmers face multiple challenges, including the impacts of climate change, escalating fertilizer costs, and the pressing need for environmentally sustainable practices. Central to these challenges is the management of Nitrogen, a critical nutrient that, if mismanaged, can lead to significant environmental consequences.
However, amidst these complexities, two metrics emerge as solutions and game-changers: Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE) and Nitrogen Uptake (NU). NUE and NU offer a new paradigm in agricultural practices, turning challenges into opportunities for sustainable and efficient farming.
John Deere, a leading manufacturer of agricultural equipment plays a pivotal role in addressing these challenges. Through their HarvestLab GrainSensing System, they provide crucial data on Crude Protein, enabling a more nuanced understanding of Nitrogen dynamics in crops. Furthermore, John Deere supports the integration of modern technologies to make agriculture more sustainable.
In this quest, John Deere dealerships like LVA stand as crucial allies. LVA, an innovative John Deere dealership in Germany, works closely with farmers to integrate new technologies and implement advanced agronomic strategies. Their role is instrumental in helping farmers navigate the complexities of modern agriculture, ensuring that they make the most of available technologies to optimize their practices.
In the fertile soil of Magdeburger Börde lies the story of Baumgärtel GbR, a family farm with 30 years of agricultural heritage, where wheat is one of the primary crops. At this farm, the precise management of Nitrogen goes beyond optimizing crop yield: it’s about a commitment to sustainable agriculture in the face of global environmental challenges.
GeoPard, as a leading provider of precision farming software, acts as the glue that connects these pillars – John Deere, LVA, and farmers like those at Baumgärtel GbR. GeoPard simplifies data management and automates analytical processes, turning data into actionable insights. In this case, their focus on Nitrogen Use Efficiency offers a lens through which farmers can view and improve their practices, ensuring sustainability and efficiency in every aspect of their operations.
Nitrogen Management at Baumgärtel Farm
The Baumgärtel family, under the leadership of Friedrich Baumgärtel, embraces the potential of data-driven agriculture to refine their fertilizing strategies and introduce new techniques, all with the aim of improving their agronomic practices.
Central to their strategy is Nitrogen management. The year 2023 brought a wet spring and a dry early summer to Magdeburger Börde, resulting in average yields. To navigate these conditions, the Baumgärtels utilized used site-specific methods to precisely adjust their Nitrogen applications.
Additionally, they employed the HarvestLab GrainSensing System to measure Crude Protein in the harvested grain. Subsequently, using GeoPard, the crop’s Nitrogen consumption was estimated, enabling the calculation of Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE) with high precision.
For the Baumgärtels, NUE has become an essential metric. It identifies areas needing adjustments in their Nitrogen application strategies. In zones where NUE falls below 80%, they plan to reduce Nitrogen application in the following season. In contrast, areas where NUE exceeds 100% call for in-depth analysis, a challenge they expect will require multiple seasons of careful observation and learning.
Cooperation between LVA & GeoPard Agriculture
In 2022, a strategic alliance was forged between GeoPard and LVA agricultural machinery enterprise Altenweddingen, the innovative John Deere dealership in Germany. This collaboration was born out of a mutual vision to leverage John Deere’s extensive data into actionable field insights.
Since then, the partnership has grown, focused on innovative ways to improve farming practices through data-driven decisions. In the following sections, we’ll highlight how farmers make the most of their nitrogen use.
Michael Eckhardt, Head of the Precision Ag Department at LVA, mentioned, “The synergy between GeoPard and LVA is more than just a business partnership; it’s a commitment to revolutionizing applied agronomic practices through data-driven decisions.
This collaboration is dedicated to empowering farmers with enhanced agronomic insights. LVA, with its expanded agronomical services, leverages the strength of John Deere equipment, such as the HarvestLab GrainSensor System, to gather crucial data.
On the other side, GeoPard’s analytical engine processes this data, providing actionable intelligence. Together, this partnership forms an alliance, focusing on improving farmers’ practices (like around Nitrogen management) by combining the best of machinery and software worlds.”
Data Capturing and Preparation
At the heart of this data-driven agricultural evolution is the seamless integration between GeoPard and the John Deere Operations Center. This collaboration exemplifies the pivotal role of John Deere in providing data access via their API, a move that significantly enriches the data flow received from the agricultural fields.
The integration ensures that as soon as operations are documented in the John Deere Operations Center, GeoPard swiftly collects them. This immediate data retrieval process covers harvesting (with details like Crude Protein and Fuel consumption data) and applications like spraying, fertilizing, seeding, and tillage.
This streamlined connection is not exclusive to John Deere; the underlying principle of GeoPard’s platform is its compatibility with various machinery data providers, facilitating connections via API.
With data flowing seamlessly into GeoPard’s system, growers are empowered with near-real-time analytical insights. This prompt data transfer is the cornerstone of initiating automated analytical suites, such as the Nitrogen Use Efficiency analysis, ensuring that growers have timely and actionable insights at their fingertips.
In 2023, Baumgärtel GbR faced the challenge of optimizing growth in the field. To achieve this, nitrogen was applied four times, starting with SSA in February, followed by three applications of AHL in the spring. These applications in the Field were fine-tuned using a site-specific method. Additionally, the HarvestLab GrainSensing System played a crucial role in revealing the distribution of crude protein in the harvested grain.
Explore the intricacies of the latest harvest dated 2023-08-08 through the following screenshots provided. This crucial dataset, seamlessly fetched from the John Deere Operations Center by GeoPard in an automated manner, showcases the delicate balance between Crude Protein and WetMass data layers captured during the harvest.
While harvest data can occasionally exhibit variations, the implementation of Yield Calibration significantly enhances analytical accuracy. This ensures reliable insights, even in the face of exceptional values such as 19 t/ha for wheat. The calibrated WetMass is depicted below.
Fertilizing Operations with Applied Nitrogen Products
Throughout the 2023 season, the wheat crop was treated with a carefully planned nitrogen application regime, involving four distinct treatments. This included an application of SSA products on 2023-02-23, followed by three spring Nitrogen applications of AHL on 2023-03-18, 2023-04-06, and 2023-05-13. The precise quantities applied in each treatment are documented in the screenshots provided.
GeoPard played a crucial role in this process by seamlessly fetching these datasets from the John Deere Operations Center. This efficient data retrieval set the stage for a comprehensive analysis of Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE) and Nitrogen Uptake (NU). By delving into this data, we transform raw information into valuable insights, paving the way for enhanced agronomic operations and strategies.
Total Applied Nitrogen
Total Applied Nitrogen (TAN) quantifies the cumulative amount of nitrogen applied to the field, presented in absolute numbers as kg/ha. This metric is derived from the sum of the actual nitrogen products applied throughout the crop season.
To ensure the highest accuracy in the evaluation, only actual applied data was used, excluding Target and Planned figures. Such an approach also accounts for the spots with over-applied and under-applied nitrogen.
Delving deeper, we’ve examined each square meter to provide growers with a granular understanding of the nitrogen amounts applied per hectare. The map below consolidates information from all four nitrogen applications, offering a unified view of the season’s applied nitrogen distribution.
All statistical data presented are in absolute terms, measured in kg/ha. The color-coded representation helps in easy interpretation: red signifies areas with the least applied nitrogen, while green indicates regions with the highest applied.
Nitrogen Uptake (NU) represents the total amount of nitrogen consumed by plants throughout their growth season. To accurately calculate NU, two critical components are considered: (1) the crude protein measurement, as captured by the HarvestLab GrainSensing System, and (2) the total harvested yield mass.
For wheat, the NU distribution is presented in absolute terms, measured in kg/ha. A detailed geospatial and statistical representation of NU across the field can be seen in the accompanying screenshot.
Nitrogen Use Efficiency
Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE) quantifies the ratio of Nitrogen consumed to the total Nitrogen applied, expressed in percentages. Derived from the earlier described Nitrogen Uptake (NU) and Total Applied Nitrogen (TAN), an NUE close to 100% is ideal, indicating that plants have consumed nearly all the applied Nitrogen, optimizing Yield.
However, NUE values around 50% suggest over-application with residual Nitrogen in the soil, while values exceeding 100% indicate under-application, with plants drawing from Nitrogen reserves of previous years.
Both scenarios are undesirable: the former risks excess fertilization, while the latter depletes the soil. This balance is visually represented in the map below, with areas near 50% NUE colored in red, and those nearing 100% in green.
Nitrogen Surplus (NS) measures the difference between the Total Applied Nitrogen (TAN) and the Nitrogen Uptake (NU) that plants consume during a season, expressed in absolute terms as kg/ha. Essentially, it indicates the amount of Nitrogen left unused by plants, which plays a pivotal role in planning the Nitrogen application for the subsequent season.
The geospatial and statistical distribution of this unutilized Nitrogen, spread across the field, can be viewed in the map provided below.
YieldMass vs CrudeProtein Comparison
Understanding Crude Protein data is essential when measuring Yield, as it offers insights into the nutritional quality and potential market value of the crop. The HarvestLab GrainSensing System is employed to measure CrudeProtein, and a corresponding screenshot showcasing its link to Yield is attached for reference.
To categorize and understand the data, we’ve set specific thresholds: a Protein Threshold at 12.5% and a Yield WetMass Threshold at 7.9t/ha. Based on these thresholds, we utilize the terms “higher” and “lower” to delineate how the observed data relates to these set standards. By comparing and contrasting these metrics, we can extract invaluable ideas to refine and enhance agronomic operations for subsequential seasons.
By combining the metrics on a single map, the relationship between CrudeProtein and WetMass are visualized. This comprehensive representation identifies four distinct scenarios:
- Higher 7.9t/ha Yield with Higher 12.5% Protein
- Higher 7.9t/ha Yield with Lower 12.5% Protein
- Lower 7.9t/ha Yield with Higher 12.5% Protein
- Lower 7.9t/ha Yield with Lower 12.5% Protein
1. Data: By seamlessly integrating with the John Deere Operations Center, GeoPard ensures real-time and accurate data capture, forming the foundation for all subsequent analytics. The incorporation of actual measured data from the HarvestLab GrainSensing System and the actual Applied Data is vital. Together, they ensure unparalleled accuracy in calculations.
2. Nitrogen Uptake (NU) and Total Applied Nitrogen (TAN): These two metrics are paramount for crop growers seeking to comprehend the balance and dynamics of nitrogen in their fields. Together, they offer a complete picture of the nitrogen lifecycle across a season.
3. Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE): NUE serves as a key metric to evaluate the overall effectiveness of nitrogen usage in a field. By pinpointing areas with varying NUE values, crop growers can identify opportunities to refine their nitrogen application strategies and improve overall agronomic practices.
4. Nitrogen Surplus (NS): NS provides critical insights that can influence Variable Rate Application (VRA) strategies for the upcoming season. By addressing the nitrogen left unutilized, farmers can make informed decisions to adjust their application plans.
From a farmer’s perspective, merging precise data collection with insightful analytics is a game-changer. It’s not just about achieving a balance in nitrogen application. It’s about understanding the intricacies of cultivating crops sustainably, ensuring the best possible yields, and maintaining the health of the land for future seasons.
About the Companies
GeoPard is a leading provider of precision farming software. The company was founded in 2019 in Cologne, Germany, and is represented globally. The company offers a range of solutions that help farmers optimize their operations and increase yields. With a focus on sustainability and regenerative economics, GeoPard aims to promote precision farming practices around the world.
The company’s partners include such well-known brands as John Deere, Corteva Agriscience, Pfeifer & Langen, IOWA Soybean Association, and many others.
LVA, agricultural machinery enterprise Altenweddingen, is a long-term midsize company with branches in Saxony- Anhalt, Brandenburg, and Lower Saxony. The focus lies on sales, export, rental, dealers workshop- and spare parts services for agricultural machinery and agronomic services. LVA has been one of the most successful John Deere dealers in Europe, for over 30 years.
The agronomic department of LVA provides services like precision farming consulting, soil scanning, and data analytics, RTK network for GPS correction.
Today, there are 100 employees at the Altenweddingen location and another 220 colleagues at the other locations in Lower Saxony, Brandenburg, and Saxony-Anhalt. Among them, there are about 40 trainees.Use-cases