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2023 Results – Part 1: On-Farm Trials Show the Power of N-Time Software to Improve Profitability, Efficiency

Whatever crops you grow, we know that yield, efficiency, and profitability are top of mind. And after some of our latest research, Sentinel Fertigation’s N-Time software has proven effective at helping farmers improve in all three of those categories. 

In 2023, we completed 13 on-farm trials to test N-Time performance in corn production across Nebraska. Trial locations are shown on the map in Figure 1. Trials were completed in partnership with the Nebraska On-Farm Research Network (NOFRN) and the University of Nebraska – Lincoln (UNL).

Each trial included at least three replications of each treatment. Treatments were managed in pie-shaped sectors using center pivot irrigation systems equipped with variable rate fertigation pumps. An example trial layout is shown in Figure 2. Each trial included a Sentinel treatment, which used Sentinel’s N-Time® software to manage nitrogen applications, and a Grower treatment in which the grower managed their own applications. In two trials, an Adapt-N treatment was also implemented, where growers managed the acres via Ever.Ag’s Adapt-N software.

Researchers at UNL and NOFRN processed and analyzed crop performance and nitrogen application data. At the time of results finalization for NOFRN publication, crop performance data for 12 of 13 sites had been received, processed, and analyzed. 

Aggregate results are shown in Table 1.On average:  

  • Sentinel yielded 251 bu/ac using 135 lb-N/ac to produce a nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) of 0.55 lb-N/bu-grain. 

  • Grower treatments averaged 255 bu/ac yield on 195 lb-N/ac for an NUE of 0.77 lb-N/bu-grain. 

  • Adapt-N treatments (two sites) averaged 249 bu/ac yield using 178 lb-N/ac for an NUE of 0.71 lb-N/bu-grain.

Overall, Sentinel’s N-Time software resulted in the most profitable approach: $17.95/ac more profit than grower management and $39.81/ac more profit than Adapt-N management. The bar charts in Figure 3 convey site-specific data.

Three treatment sectors out of the 52 sectors (5.8%) represented in the data above had calibration issues that were not identified in-season. In these sectors, calibration had essentially been reversed. This means that N-Time was not correctly implemented. If you remove these three sectors from the dataset, the numbers don’t change drastically but there would be notable shifts. Without those sectors, the treatments managed by Sentinel’s N-Time software averaged 253 bu/ac yield, using 136 lb-N/ac for an NUE of 0.55. 

Most significantly, this change increases Sentinel’s profit margin versus the other management tactics. Sentinel treatments with these three sectors removed resulted in $25.12/ac and $31.63/ac more profit than Grower and Adapt-N management treatments, respectively. Aggregate data is summarized in Table 2 and trial specific data is summarized in Figure 4.

Across trials, including the three miscalibrated sectors, Sentinel’s treatments had a 75% profitability win rate, 100% NUE win rate, and 31% yield win rate (zero or positive yield change). However, after taking out those miscalibrated sectors from the dataset, Sentinel’s treatments had an 85% profitability win rate, 100% NUE win rate, and 38% yield win rate. Of the yield losses, five were within 3 bu/ac lower than the Grower’s yield. 

These treatment results demonstrate that Sentinel’s N-Time software is likely to improve profitability and efficiency on your farm by a significant margin — and demonstrate at least a 3x ROI. Additionally, it will likely maintain your yields. Now, the question is: can N-Time also push yields higher while improving efficiency and profitability? The Sentinel team is working to make that possible.

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