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Five different ways for farmers to apply the same amount of nitrogen are the treatments for this study. The five N Management Systems range from applying all the N for corn in the Fall to applying 50% before planting and 50% once the crop is up and growing. The experimental designed used for this study will allow for the statistical evaluation of harvest yield data this Fall.
Inventorying and tracking Plant-Available Nitrogen (PAN) over time is the purpose of this project. Soil samples are collected by Paris HIgh School Students at two depths (0-1 ft. and 1-2 ft.) and tested for the concentration of both nitrate and ammonium-N (forms of N utilized by the plant). The tool, created by Illini FS, tracks both forms of nitrogen from harvest to harvest, providing farmers a window into the soil to better understand what happens to applied nitrogen fertilizer. The unique part about the Paris High School Site is that farmers can track how Plant-Available N changes using five different management systems.
N-TRACKER/Tile Water uses tracking of nitrate-N over time to establish a baseline of nitrate-N concentration in subsurface tile water. This approach, created by Illini FS, will allow farmers to establish the concentration of nitrate-N in the tile water over time to better understand natural soil release of nitrate-N and how the concentration may change once fertilizer nitrogen is applied.
360 SOILSCAN is a portable soil testing system that detects nitrate-N concentration in soil samples within five minutes or less. Students from the AP Chemistry class will help determine the accuracy and usefulness of this instrument by analyzing samples collected from the N Management System site with the unit. Tile water samples will also be analyzed for nitrate-N as well. A comparison of the 360 SOILSCAN and lab test results will be posted on the website as samples are collected. (360 SOILSCAN is a registered Trademark of 360 Yield)
The purpose of the cover crop study is to evaluate how well a cover crop can immobilize (tie-up) nitrate-N in the soil profile to minimize loss into the atmosphere (denitrification) or through movement with soil water into subsurface drainage tile (leaching). Unfortunately, the cereal rye cover crop was planted too late to get adequate growth prior to the winter temperatures. It is our hope that an early Spring warm-up will allow growth to demonstrate the ability of a growing cover crop to hold and preserve soil nitrate-N. The study will also serve as a way to determine when N immobilized by the cover crop is made available to the next crop (if it is).