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Results are in: N-Time improves farmers’ NUE by 25%, gives $73/acre profit boost

Figure 1 - Sentinel shields show the locations of fields managed with N-Time in 2023.

Imagery-driven nitrogen application recommendations hold significant power for farmers. With data-backed insights on when to apply nitrogen (or not apply) based on the crop’s real-time condition, growers can save wasteful applications, save money, improve crop health, and even add to their bottom line. 

We talk about these benefits all the time — but the proof is in the dirt. Throughout 2023, we monitored dozens of on-farm trial fields where we could gather comprehensive data about how Sentinel Fertigation’s N-Time® software and insights helped farmers improve their efficiency, environmental stewardship, and even yields.

And the results are in.

First, a look at the overall 2023 landscape: 

  • N-Time® supported nitrogen management decisions for agronomists, farmers, and researchers across eight states. 

  • Nine crops were under N-Time management (as shown by the field site map in Figure 1). 

  • Corn was the primary crop under management. 

  • Crops managed or trialed in 2023 included rye, oats, popcorn, cotton, potatoes, wheat, orchardgrass, and soybeans. 

  • Most supported fields were in Nebraska, followed by Illinois and Kansas. (Field sites managed in 2023 are shown in Figure 1). 

A first look at 2023 results

As of mid-March, complete results were available for 65 fields, including 12 on-farm corn research trials conducted in Nebraska during 2023. Aggregate results across all commercial and trial sites are shown in Table 1. 

For commercial sites, N-Time’s performance in 2023 was compared with farmer-reported typical yield and nitrogen applied. The goal was to determine changes in yield, applied nitrogen, nitrogen use efficiency (NUE), and partial profit. 

Meanwhile, trial sites compared crop performance under actual grower management versus the same field under N-Time management in a replicated trial design.

Overall, N-Time improved nitrogen use efficiency by 25% versus expected grower management. Fields under N-Time management also averaged an NUE of 0.71 lb-N/bu-grain—compared to the grower-managed NUE of 0.96 lb-N/bu-grain. 

This translated to a profit increase for growers’ fields under N-Time management of nearly $73/ac. Profit increases were driven by both nitrogen savings (51 lb-N/ac less applied under N-Time than under grower management) and higher than expected yield (by 8 bu/ac). 

Across sites, N-Time demonstrated an 83% profit win rate, 98% NUE win rate, and 67% yield win rate, as shown in Figure 2.

At Sentinel, we don’t just measure success based on yield, because many factors can impact these numbers (including hybrids, planting conditions and emergence, weather during grain fill, etc). Instead, we focus on partial profitability and NUE. 

Some of our farmer customers reported yield limitations due to these conditions and suggested we consider other metrics besides yield to gauge performance. 

Table 2 shows performance metrics for N-Time and grower management with fields reported to be impacted by yield limited factors other than nitrogen removed from the dataset. With those fields removed, N-Time achieved better NUE and increased profit margins. Yields were also higher than expected by 11 bu/ac rather than 8 bu/ac. N-Time achieved a 93% profit win rate, 100% NUE win rate, and 77% yield win rate, as shown in Figure 3.

The best of both worlds: Maintain your yields, improve your nitrogen efficiency

The similarities between comprehensive results and on-farm trial results from 2023 are compelling. N-Time has demonstrated — across geographies, across crops, and across management styles — that it can improve both profit and NUE on your farm. And all of this is done without negatively impacting yields: in fact, results from these trials show that N-Time can even  help you improve your yields. 

If you’re interested in integrating N-Time on your operation to improve your bottom line, top line, and environmental stewardship, reach out to our team today.

This is Part 2 of a three-part series detailing Sentinel Fertigation’s 2023 research results. Read Part 1 — about how we designed these trials — here.

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