When spring rains are above normal, we often rejoice when the crops are in and we don’t have to replant ponds. Extra moisture in the ground is usually a bonus because hot and dry July is just around the bend.
But a wet spring can steal nitrogen as it leaches out, leaving behind nitrogen-stressed corn that occurs randomly across drenched fields. Listen to Jim Schepers , University of Nebraska USDA-ARS soil scientist, talk about in-season nitrogen losses and the value of the new OptiGro system  from John Deere.
By enlisting aerial photography and quick professional analysis, you can learn what portions of a cornfield lack nitrogen, then take action to apply in-season nitrogen (when it’s knee high) to help boost yield. Tracy Blackmer, Iowa Soybean Association director of research, has used aerial imagery across hundreds of Iowa fields and talks about how in-season nitrogen precision can pay  (click on KCIM interview).
You begin the OptiGro system process by working with your area OptiGro reseller to set field boundaries and order images via the Internet. Photos are taken of the field and relayed back to the reseller within days of your order. The OptiGro Zone Maker software translates the images into different zones of plant health and maturity based on reflected light. Your crop advisor then reviews these field locations and writes a prescription for each zone. This digital information is sent to your preferred applicator and the variable-rate nitrogen is applied.
Change nitrogen strategy
You can also adopt a new planned nitrogen strategy with this technology. Start with 50 to 65% of your usual N application, then have images taken when corn is close to knee high. The OptiGro system identifies deficient parts of a field that need different amounts of N. Then you decide the best in-season method to apply prescription amounts of nitrogen to various portions of a field.
OptiGro has been available to cotton growers since 2005 and is now available for corn and wheat producers . Check out the Farm Industry News FIN-TV video report on OptiGro  or the story
“Aerial Detective”  that appeared in the April 2006 issue of Farm Industry News.