Monthly Archives: February 2023

Sensor-Based N Fertigation

Understanding the Soil Microbiome: For those interested, this Friday, March 3, will be our last Friday conversation on ‘understanding the soil microbiome’ at the 4-H Building in York from 10 a.m.-Noon. Dr. Rhae Drijber, UNL soil microbiologist, will kick off our conversation and I’m looking forward to the discussion. If you plan to attend, please let us know at 402-362-5508.

March 4 Gardening Workshop will be held from 10 a.m.-Noon at the 4-H Building in York. Sarah Browning, Extension Educator, will share on vegetable planting basics such as site selection, rotational plan, summer care, and troubleshooting problems such as insects/diseases/weeds. Please bring your questions! This workshop is sponsored by the UBBNRD and Nebraska Extension; there’s no charge and refreshments are provided. No RSVP is required, but it does help with refreshments if you could please let us know at 402-362-6601 or 402-362-5508. If you’re interested in gardening, but don’t have the space at home, check out the Project GROW community garden in York. Plots are available for the 2023 growing season. You can reserve your space now or come to the Gardening Workshop and sign up in person.

Sensor-Based Nitrogen Fertigation: This week also brings the last of our on-farm research updates (Mar. 1 in North Platte, Mar. 2 in Kearney, and Mar. 3 in Beatrice). You can still sign up at  

One of the most impactful on-farm research studies being shared (I feel) is on sensor-based nitrogen fertigation occurring since 2019. It’s similar in concept to Project Sense, for those of you familiar with sensors being retrofitted on ground rigs for in-season nitrogen applications.

Sensors mounted onto a drone could allow for improved nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) by responding to actual plant needs in season. A grower determined base rate was applied to the field across treatments. Then grower fertigation management was compared to the sensor-based approach in 15 degree sectors on half a pivot. Indicator and reference plots in the field received at least 30 lb/ac less N and 30 lb/ac more N respectively and were established around V7. The field was flown weekly with a drone, imagery was analyzed, and fertigation decisions were made for each treatment sector.

The treatments were: 1) Grower rate 2) Risk averse post-establishment (RAP) (fertigation events applied up to R4 but 30 lb N/ac applied when needed between V9-V14) and 3) Risk averse post-establishment Increased Rate (RAP-IR) (fertigation events applied up to R4 but 60 lb N/ac applied when needed between V9-V14).

Since the beginning of this effort, 100% of the RAP-based sensor treatments were more efficient across all sites than the typical N grower management. Encouraging to me about this method is that it’s all based on what the plant needs after what the soil provides to the plant. There’s no determination of an N rate ahead of time based on plant removal, yield goal, etc.

There were 4 studies in 2022, but I will share on two of them. In a Hall county field with silt loam soils, both sensor based fertigation treatments triggered a total application of 95 lb N/ac vs. grower applying 196 lb N/ac. The grower treatment resulted in a yield of 277 bu/ac at 0.71 lb N/bu NUE. The two sensor based treatments resulted in yields of 271 and 274 bu/ac at only 0.35 lb N/bu NUE! That was pretty incredible for me to see 0.35 NUE and those kind of yields! It shows there is opportunity to consider further reductions in nitrogen applications. At a Saunders county field, no grower rate was used and the beginning base rate was only 33 lb N/ac. The RAP sensor treatment had 108 lb N/ac total applied yielding 258 bu/ac with 0.42 lb N/bu NUE. The RAP-IR sensor treatment had 101 lb N/ac total applied yielding 274 bu/ac with a 0.37 lb N/bu NUE.

You can read more details of this study via the online version of the 2023 On-Farm Research book found at: (beginning on page 80). For 2023, growers interested in trying this via on-farm research can receive monetary support through a Conservation Innovation Grant to help with purchasing fertigation equipment and/or for the aerial imagery services through Sentinel Fertigation. I would love to see 5 of these in our area of the State this coming year. Please let me or Laura Thompson ( know if you’re interested!

You can still register for the CPIA Conference or walk-in the day of the event. Really practical info. for growers and ag industry!

Note: Beatrice was rescheduled to March 3rd. You can still RSVP for this week’s meetings or else walk in.

Farm Bill 2023 Elections

During our on-farm research meeting last Wednesday, several farmers received text message reminders to make their ARC/PLC enrollment/election by March 15, 2023, and were asking about this after the meeting. Regardless of whether you choose to make a new election or not, a new enrollment (contract) is required, so please contact the FSA office to take care of that. You can view the UNL/FSA farm bill webinar at: No need to run simulations. You can download the spreadsheet from K-State that shows price/yield options for PLC/ARC-Co triggers:  

Bottom Line: For 2023, neither ARC-Co nor PLC would be anticipated to trigger for corn, soybean, wheat, sorghum with current USDA projected prices. If you’re concerned about price decline and want to protect that downside, PLC can be selected. If you think high prices will remain, ARC-Co provides a better likelihood of payment in the event of disasters such as drought and hail impacting county average yields. These are risk management tools, and ultimately, crop insurance will be important again in 2023. Different election decisions (ARC-Co or PLC) can be made for crops in different FSA farm numbers if you’d like to spread risk. Fields with higher PLC yields could be more favorable for your PLC decisions.

But how do you choose between PLC and ARC? ARC-CO would only be anticipated to pay with a catastrophic yield loss, such as county-wide hail and/or drought.

PLC Reference Prices are: $3.70 for corn, $3.95 for milo, $8.40 for soybean, and $5.50 for wheat. Because market year average prices are much higher than these reference prices at this time, barring any major disaster causing price reduction, PLC payments wouldn’t be anticipated for any of these crops in 2023. Reasons to consider PLC: if you feel prices have the potential to decline or if you choose to use Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) through crop insurance. Both the UNL and K-State webinar links on my blog go into more detail about SCO.

The following patterns hold true for every county I ran for both irrigated and non-irrigated. If you feel prices will stay high, then ARC-Co will only trigger if county average yields decline. If you feel prices will decline, PLC will mostly only trigger before ARC-Co. at county average yields. I think most of us would prefer good crops and decent prices to having either of these programs trigger. I’ve shared additional photos with explanations and reference links at my blog: if seeing this explanation is helpful.

Corn: at county average yields, price would have to fall to $3.33 to trigger an ARC-Co. payment while it will trigger PLC payment at $3.70. When county average yields decline, ARC-Co triggers before PLC.

Soybean: at county average yields, price of $8.11 would trigger ARC-Co compared to $8.40 for PLC. When county average yields decline, ARC-Co. triggers before PLC.

Wheat: at county average yields, price of $4.60 would trigger ARC-Co compared to $5.50 for PLC. It takes more reduction in county average yields for ARC-Co to trigger before PLC. Please run these for yourself if you’re looking at wheat.

Milo (Sorghum): at county average yields, a $3.68 price would trigger ARC-Co compared to $3.95 for PLC. When county average yields decline, ARC-Co triggers before PLC.

For ARC-IC (individual), if any of us knew we’d get the hail damage we did last year, it may have been a great decision for last year’s election for those hardest hit with all/majority of fields. Because we can’t make this decision looking backward, ARC-IC tends to be more favorable for those with diversified crops or situations where yields wouldn’t reflect county average yields.


For corn, seeing this same pattern regardless of county and regardless of if irrigated or non-irrigated. When you download the spreadsheet from:, the county average yield is the yield that is bolded. When you follow the payment potentials down that column, you will see that the PLC reference price of $3.70 will trigger before an ARC-Co payment at with county-average yields of $3.33. However, with a county-average yield reduction to 215 bu/ac (in this case), both ARC-Co and PLC would trigger at a $3.70 price and ARC-Co payments trigger at higher prices with further county average yield declines.

For soybean, seeing this same pattern in different counties and in irrigated or non-irrigated. When you download the spreadsheet from:, the county average yield is the yield that is bolded. When you follow the payment potentials down that column, you will see that the PLC reference price of $8.40 will trigger before an ARC-Co payment at with county-average yields of $8.11. However, with a county-average yield reduction to 65 bu/ac (in this case), ARC-Co triggers at a higher price than PLC (and with greater county average yield reductions, ARC-Co will always trigger before PLC at higher prices).

For milo, seeing this same pattern in different counties and in irrigated or non-irrigated. When you download the spreadsheet from:, the county average yield is the yield that is bolded. When you follow the payment potentials down that column, you will see that the PLC reference price of $3.95 will trigger before an ARC-Co payment at $3.68 with county-average yields. With county average yield reduction to 122 bu/ac, both PLC and ARC-Co will trigger at $3.95 and ARC-Co triggers with further yield reductions at higher prices.

For wheat, seeing this same pattern in different counties and in irrigated or non-irrigated. When you download the spreadsheet from:, the county average yield is the yield that is bolded. When you follow the payment potentials down that column, you will see that the PLC reference price of $5.50 will trigger before an ARC-Co payment at $4.60 with county-average yields. The pattern for wheat is different than the other commodities, though. Yield has to be reduced at least two columns (the specific yields differ based on county and whether irrigated/non-irrigated), in which ARC-Co then triggers before PLC with those county average yield reductions and higher prices.

The “Understanding the Soil Microbiome” featuring Dr. Rhae Drijber is rescheduled to Friday, March 3 from 10 a.m.-Noon.

Interseeded Cover Crops Results

Studies such as this will be shared by area farmers starting this week at On-Farm Research Updates (Feb. 15 at Holthus Conv. Center in York)! RSVP at: Since 2019, a group of area farmers have been interseeding cover crops into early season corn (V3-V4) and soybean (VE-V2). The goals for interseeding cover crops into cash crops include: providing nutrients for the cash crop, weed control, erosion control, diversity, reducing inputs such as fertilizer and chemicals, and providing forage for grazing after harvest. Interseeding of cover crops can also occur at other growth stages, such as at male row destruction in seed corn or at senescence in late-season corn and soybean. This article will focus on our results from early-season interseeding of cover crops into corn and soybean.

In 2019, two farmers interseeded cover crops (one drill interseeded and one broadcast) into corn in York and Seward counties. Both got establishment and showed no yield differences between interseeded and check. In 2020, a partnership formed between The Nature Conservancy, Upper Big Blue NRD, Extension, Kelloggs and area farmers. A four row interseeder was purchased. Six farmers chose to conduct studies via on-farm research where they maintained the same field-scale strips of interseeded cover crops and check treatments for 3 years. The different cover crop mixes and rates can be viewed at

From 2020-2022, fields were impacted by July 9, 2020 and 2021 wind events and June 14, 2022 hail. We had 12 site-years of corn studies and 2 site-years of soybean studies. Biomass samples of the cover crops and also weeds were taken each September. Cover crop biomass ranged from 200 lb/ac to 4 tons/ac depending on the location, hybrid, irrigation, and storm events. In 10 of 12 site-years, interseeded cover crop had more biomass than the check treatment (weeds).

Yield: No corn yield difference between check and interseeded in 6 of the 12 site-years. Yield losses ranged from 2-10 bu/ac in the remainder. No soy yield difference between the interseeded and check.

Net Return: In 10 of the 12 corn site-years, and 1 of the soybean site-years, the check treatment had a higher net return. (However, no benefit to grazing, reduced inputs, etc. was given to interseeding).

Soil Health Values (PLFA & Haney): Large numerical increases in soil health numbers when all 6 sites were combined (as well as some individual sites). Significant increase in the Check from 2020 to 2022. Significant increase in the Interseeded from 2020-2022. However, because this happened for both treatments, when comparing Check vs. Interseeded from 2020 vs. 2022, there is no difference. Why? All farmers were incorporating additional soil health practices across their entire fields (planting rye each fall, grazing, adding biological products, etc.) that would have impacted both cover crop and check treatments. Good news: all increased their overall soil health (soil microbial pops and scores) in 3 years.

Soil Nutrient Values: There were no differences between OM, pH, P, S, K, and base saturations between Check and Interseeded from 2020 to 2022 across sites. Numerical changes occurred at individual sites.

Our studies proved that drill interseeding of cover crops into early season corn and soybeans can be achieved for establishment that lasted after harvest with regrowth of perennial covers into the spring. We also showed this in spite of a number of PRE- herbicides used. We increased beneficial insects and saw pest insects feeding on cover crop instead of cash crop. We increased diversity in the fields and had additional cover aiding erosion control. We also showed reduced water use in the corn where the diverse cover crop was used compared to the check treatment. The disappointment to me was the low amount of forage for those desiring to graze after harvest and the spotty survival of perennials in the spring. However, those who grazed said there was value in the amount of green material present at harvest coupled with the corn residue. Additional challenges can include the fact that it does look ‘messy’, one needs to think through herbicide options ahead of time, and we need to put dollars to additional benefits that are harder to calculate (soil erosion, etc). Next week I’ll share our next steps in where we’re headed.

JenREES 2/5/23

Sharing more February events this week. Will share more on-farm research results in future weeks.

Looking forward to hearing farmers and livestock producers share at two opportunities this week. Reminder of the Eastern NE Soil Health Conference at Eastern NE R&E Center near Mead on Feb. 9th beginning at 9 a.m. (Reg. at 8:30 a.m.). Also a reminder of our Conversations around Rethinking Grazing-Strategies for nutrient distribution on Feb. 10th from 10-noon at the 4-H Building in York. I’ve asked a few producers to kick off the conversation on how they’re grazing cornstalks, cover crops, pastures for the purpose of better nutrient distribution. If you’re interested in this topic, please plan to attend to share your perspectives, what you’re doing, and questions!

For those reading this planning on attending pesticide recertification trainings in Hastings in Feb. and Mar., the location is at the Extension Office (2975 S. Baltimore Ave.) in Hastings and NOT at the fairgrounds as listed in the winter program brochure.

Farm Bill Webinar: Nebraska USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) is reminding producers now is the time to make elections and enroll in the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs for the 2023 crop year. The signup period is open through March 15, 2023.

Producers can learn about the ARC and PLC options during a UNL Center for Agricultural Profitability webinar scheduled for 12 p.m. CT on Tuesday, Feb. 7. Cathy Anderson, production and compliance programs chief for the Nebraska Farm Service Agency, and Brad Lubben, extension policy specialist in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Department of Agricultural Economics, will present and share information relevant for producers, ag professionals and ag stakeholders. Registration for the webinar is free and can be found at:

Feb. 14 Ag Update Merrick Co.: Nebraska water quality’s impact on human health and more, Ag Update 2023 will be held Tuesday, Feb. 14 at the Merrick County Youth and Agriculture Education Center, 1784 Fairgrounds Rd, Central City. It will start with breakfast refreshments provided by Archer Credit Union and exhibits opening at 9 am. The event has a great lineup of speakers and exhibits, including “Nebraska Water, Connecting all Nebraskans” with Crystal Powers, “How Water and Substances Move in Soils and the Vadose Zone” with Aaron Daigh, and “Home Reverse Osmosis Cost Share Program” with Steve Melvin. Lunch will be provided and sponsored by Cornerstone Bank. The day will wrap-up about 3:15 p.m. with door prizes. RSVP to Steve Melvin at (308) 946-3843 or at the Merrick County Extension site.

Feb. 28-Mar. 1 Central Plains Irrigation Conference: The event will take place at the Kearney Holiday Inn Convention Center. This is an educational event and opportunity for networking among producers, university officials, industry leaders and other stakeholders. Irrigation in the Central Plains region will be the focus of the conference with topics such as, but not limited to: Getting the most out of your technology and irrigation support tools; Cover crops and residue management; Remote sensing and drone technology; Pivot performance; “Ogallala Aquifer’s Story: Human, Environment and Production”; Insect and nutrient management via chemigation; “TAPS: Effects of Participant Decisions on Profitability & Efficiency”. The conference will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 28 and then 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Wednesday, March 1. The cost to attend the event is $55 in advance or $65 at the door. Registration cost does include the lunch meal on Tuesday. Registration is available online, and payment ahead of the conference is appreciated via check or credit card. CCA credits are pending. A vendor show will be available and if your business or organization is interested in having a booth, please contact Donna Lamm at 785-462-7574.

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