Think of it as a Consumer Reports or Car Fax for agriculture.
In March we told you about NutrientStar, a new product assessment program developed by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) that evaluates the performance of commercially available nutrient management tools. With the growing season now in full swing, we thought it would be a good time to give you an update on this program, which had its official launch in March at the Commodity Classic tradeshow in New Orleans, LA.
As we reported earlier, the NutrientStar review program was developed to provide farmers, agronomy advisors, commodity buyers, food companies and consumers with reliable information about tools that are marketed as being able to improve nutrient management. EDF says it is the first review program to do this.
Fertilizer management products under review through NutrientStar include nitrogen stabilizers such as Dow AgroSciences' Instinct II and N Serve; biologics such Verdesian's NutriSphere N; controlled-release fertilizers such as Agrium's ESN; decision support tools, such as Pioneer's Encirca and Climate Corp's Fieldview; and optical sensor technologies such as OptRx and Greenseeker. Click here for a full list of products.
“Since the launch of NutrientStar we have added the report on N-Serve and Instinct II,” says John McGuire with EDF. “We are working a few infrastructure projects that should increase our capacity and look forward to getting more data to the site faster in the future.”
You can read about the results for N-Serve and Instinct II, both nitrogen stabilizers, here.
You can see the results from Adapt-N, a crop modeling software program used to estimate required nitrogen rates, here.
McGuire says there has been a lot of interest in the program and it is growing as a result. “We are in dialog with several product and tool companies and have new submissions coming in regularly,” McGuire says. “Our Field Trial Network has about 65 trials planned for this season. We have had several industry personnel and farmers that have signed up at the website to receive program updates and news. All in all, I think we are off to a great start and are poised to grow.”
Having this product performance data is increasingly important for farmers as they seek to manage nutrients, protect soil and water resources on their farms, and address growing public concern over nutrient leaching from farms. Typically, less than 40% of nutrients are taken up by crops each year, and agricultural runoff contributes to air and water pollution and wasted money for farmers who spend approximately half of their input costs on fertilizer.
Assessments are done by an independent review panel composed of soil and agronomy scientists, many of whom we have interviewed in the past for stories. Among them are James Schepers and Kenneth Cassman from the University of Nebraska, Jerry Hatfield with the USDA/ARS, and Peter Kyveryga with the Iowa Soybean Association. The panel conducts assessments of all the tools on the market, looking at on-farm field trials, to determine how a tool works on the ground, in different regions, and on different soil types.
EDF says the panel reviews all tools the same way, based on established criteria and their ability to improve nutrient use efficiency as shown in production-scale field trials, defined as unit of yield over unit of applied nutrient. The results show yield impacts from use of a tool and as well as key characteristics such as cost/benefit, ease of use, and required data inputs.
The program is free for growers. Visit www.nutrientstar.org for a full list of tools under review and the newly added performance data.