According to the statement, the technology will enable growers to match applied nitrogen fertilizer to the optimal needs of the crop in a more precise manner. Minimising over-application of nutrients can help to cut costs, reduce the risk of fertilizer runoff into lakes, streams and rivers, and preserve crop yield. Under an exclusive agreement, Sentera will integrate the capability into the Sentera FieldAgent™ Platform and commence field trials with a number of its largest customers this year. Commercial rollout is scheduled for next year.
The CEO of Sentera, Eric Taipale, said: “Nitrogen management is one of the primary controllable cost components for corn growers.
“This technology enables tailored management practices aided by a real-time estimate of nitrogen status. Real-time feedback into existing prescription models delivers further refinement and reduces risk to the grower while improving their bottom line.”
The technology, which was developed by the University of Minnesota with support from the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, detects nitrogen stress in corn using computer vision techniques that recognise characteristic features on plant leaves. The frequency and appearance of these features correlate directly to nitrogen deficiency. Deficiency information is subsequently fed into models that incorporate other weather, soils and similar information to generate a prescription to address the issue.
David Mulla, Professor and Larson Endowed Chair in soil and water resources at the U's College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences, said: “The correct application of nitrogen is a critical variable in crop success and keeping agricultural practices from harming our environment.
“Working with Sentera allows us to move the research we've done at the University of Minnesota into the hands of farmers quickly and efficiently. Producers will be able to be far more accurate in their fertilizer application, saving them money and keeping nitrogen out of the water.”
Nitrogen stress in crops has generally been identified using expensive manual techniques, or through the use of remote sensing technology that cannot distinguish between nitrogen and other crop stressors, such as diseases, pests, or other nutrient problems. By comparison, this technology can diagnose a nitrogen issue directly.
Nikolaos Papanikolopoulos, McKnight Presidential Endowed Professor in computer science and engineering at the U's College of Science and Engineering, said: “The University of Minnesota is a leader in automated sensing technology, pioneering new methods for solving difficult problems.
“It's exciting to see this technology being licensed and developed locally, and it's another indication of Minnesota's growing strength – academic and commercial – in the area of sophisticated sensing and analysis.”
In the statement, Sentera claims that it has launched a dedicated trial program with some of its largest customers through its FieldAgent Platform. Nitrogen deficiency detection analytics will be rolled out to all FieldAgent subscribers during the 2019 North American growing season.