We are seeking Michigan growers to participate in an interview about the nutrient management practices they use for two fields. We will ask questions about each field’s management history (rotation, tillage, fertilization, manure use, cover crops, etc.) and five years of field-level input and yield data. This five-year inventory of nutrient inputs and outputs will indicate whether N and P are being added in deficit or excess of crop demand.

Mass balances are calculated as the sum of nutrients added from fertilizer, manure, or legumes minus the sum of nutrients removed in harvested crops. N and P mass balances are a powerful indicator of a field’s nutrient status that can inform management decisions. There are many practices that retain nutrients in soil, but they may not be equally effective across farms with different histories and soil properties. Since every field a grower uses is unique, a main goal of this research is to incorporate on-farm variability into nutrient management recommendations.

Soil will be collected from each field to measure soil health characteristics. All data will be kept anonymous and presented in aggregate to protect privacy. Participating growers will receive their farm’s nutrient balance and soil health test results. We will also share aggregated data with participating growers and other agricultural stakeholders through roundtable discussions. Growers may participate in these roundtable discussions if they are interested.

This project will help farmers and consultants adapt N and P management based on the unique characteristics of individual fields. Participants can join a local network of growers interested in nutrient management and dedicated to increasing the economic and environmental sustainability of agriculture in Michigan.

Project Details

  • Desired fields
    • One higher-performing and one lower-performing field
    • Include corn in rotation
    • We ask that growers who use cover crops select two fields on which cover crops are grown
  • Interviews and sampling
    • A face-to-face interview (about 1 hour total) will be scheduled during winter 2022. We can conduct them in one or two sessions depending on availability.
    • We will collect soil samples in summer 2022
    • Provide management history for both fields
    • Provide yield data for the most recent corn crop and all crops that precede it for a five-year period in each field
    • Provide nutrient input/amendment data for N and P (i.e., from farm records)
  • Farmer benefits
    • Field-level N and P use efficiency reports
    • Detailed soil health tests for each field
    • Soil microbial community information
    • Estimates of nutrient supply from legumes and manure, if used.
    • Opportunity to join a network of farmers interested in nutrient management and participate in roundtable discussions

If you would like to participate, please email Kent Connell (rkco@umich.edu) or Jennifer Blesh (jblesh@umich.edu)