October 14, 2009
Contacts: See list below
Northern NY Research Helps Reduce Farm Fertilizer Costs
Northern New York - Northern New York farmers and Cornell researchers
are identifying ways to reduce the use of fertilizer and associated
costs without sacrificing crop yield. The result is better use of
existing on-farm nutrient resources (manure, cover crops, crop
rotation), lower fertilizer costs, and environmental benefits.
This research and extension work is co-funded by the Northern New York
Agricultural Development Program and New York Farm Viability Institute,
and responds to needs and opportunities identified by farmers responding
to a survey conducted by the Institute in 2007. That survey gave
priority ranking to reducing high production input costs, crediting the
nutrient value of manure as an input asset, and improving nitrogen
management in crops.
“Fertilizer prices have increased dramatically in the past four years.
This project helps farmers identify opportunities to reduce the need for
fertilizer with resulting cost savings,” says project leader Quirine M.
Ketterings, an associate professor and leader of the Nutrient Management
Spear Program in the Department of Animal Science at Cornell University.
The research encourages farmers to use a combination of tests to
precisely target fertilizer use on corn crops. Over past years, the
research team has investigated two plant tests and three soil tests for
their usefulness in fine-tuning nitrogen management for corn. The two
tools with the most promise for NY farmers are the late season Corn
Stalk Nitrate Test (CSNT) and the Illinois Soil Nitrogen Test (ISNT).
The CSNT is an end-of-season plant test that basically allows farmers to
assess if corn had insufficient, optimal or excess nitrogen available
during the growing season.
The ISNT is a soil test for potentially mineralizable organic nitrogen
that allows for assessment of soil organic N supply potential. If the
ISNT is above a certain level, research shows that field is highly
likely to supply enough N through soil organic N mineralization and
there is no need for additional fertilizer N. An ISNT below the critical
level indicates that additional nitrogen is needed.
Ketterings says the combined use of the ISNT and CSNT has the potential
to save farmers $50 to $100 per acre.
“We are evaluating the potential for nitrogen fertilizer savings on six
farms in Northern New York and we estimate that those farms will realize
a savings of 20 to 40 percent in their fertilizer budgets upon
implementation of the use of the ISNT and CSNT-based nitrogen
management,” Ketterings says.
Cornell researchers are working with farmers, Cornell Cooperative
Extension educators, and crop consultants to compile field history data
for the participating farms. They will use the tests and field histories
to determine nitrogen needs for crops and to determine where reducing
the use of N fertilizer and/or redistributing manure application can
lead to lower N fertilizer costs and lower crop production costs.
“Corn growers independent of size or management style will benefit from
this project through the continuing validation of the use of the ISNT
and the CSNT as effective tools for corn nitrogen management, and
through the cost savings for fields which the tools show have sufficient
nitrogen through organic sources,” Ketterings says.
She adds that the project results will also be of use to livestock
farmers and cash grain producers.
In addition to the whole-farm ISNT and CSNT assessment at six NNY farms,
a field trial was established at the E.V. Baker Research Farm in
Willsboro, NY, to investigate the performance of enhanced efficiency
fertilizers under Northern New York growing conditions. The two
fertilizers being compared to conventional N sources are Environmentally
Smart Nitrogen (ESN) and Nutrisphere-N with urea.
“ESN is a polymer-coasted controlled-release nitrogen fertilizer.
Nutrisphere-N is a polymer that can be added to urea (dry) or urea
ammonium nitrate (liquid) fertilizer,” Ketterings says. “Many farmers
have asked about the use of these products and their ability to
eliminate sidedress application, but there is very little university
research on these products in the Northeast. We initiated this two-year
study in 2008.”
A fact sheet titled “Enhanced Efficiency Nitrogen Sources” is found on
the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program website at
Agricultural Environmental Management.
The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program also funds annual
corn grain and corn silage variety trials to provide farmers with yield
and quality data for corn hybrids grown under NNY farming conditions.
The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program is a
farmer-driven initiative to ensure the long term economic vitality of
Northern NY’s agricultural production sector and agriculture’s important
contributions to the protection and enhancement of the region’s
environment and rich natural resource base and to communities in New
York State’s six northernmost counties.
The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program awards grants for
practical on-farm research, outreach and technical assistance and is
supported by funds from the New York State Legislature through the long
term support of the North Country’s State Senators, and with the support
of NYS Assemblypersons from the region and other areas of the state.
The program receives support (funds, time, land, expertise, etc.) from
Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the
Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station, the NYS Agricultural
Experiment Station in Geneva, the six Northern New York Cornell
Cooperative Extension Associations, the W. H. Miner Agricultural
Research Institute, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the New York
State Department of Agriculture and Markets, cooperating farms,
agribusinesses across the region, and others.
Additional funding from the New York Farm Viability Institute
(www.nyfvi.org) and Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station
(www.cuaes.cornell.edu) supports projects being conducted across the
entire six-county NNY region in 2009. Learn more at
www.nnyagdev.org. # # #
ISNT/CSNT Project Leader:
Quirine M. Ketterings, Cornell University, 607-255-3061,
Cornell Cooperative Extension Field Crop Educators for Northern
• Clinton County: Peter Hagar, 518-561-7450
• Essex County: Anita Deming, 518-962-4810
• Franklin County: Carl Tillinghast, Stephen Canner, 518-483-7403
• Jefferson County: Mike Hunter, 315-788-8450
• Lewis County: Joe Lawrence, 315-376-5270
• St. Lawrence County: Stephen Canner, 315-379-9192
Northern New York Agricultural Development Program
Co-Chair Jon Greenwood: 315-386-3231
Co-Chair Joe Giroux: 518-563-7523
New York Farm Viability Institute: