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The Nitrogen Experience - 21st Century Nitrogen Fertilizer Management

Improving nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) in crop production has both environmental and economic benefits.  Strategies to boost NUE are not without their own set of risks.  One strategy could involve using lean nitrogen rates.  Lean nitrogen rates can maximize your return on investment, but do not insure against potential nitrogen loss via denitrification or nitrification and leaching, and can leave a farmer short on yield.   Another strategy is to adjust nitrogen application timing to be better in sync with crop demand; this will limit the potential for loss to the environment via the aforementioned mechanisms.  Adjustment of application timing is not without its own set of risks.  Growers will face logistical supply chain issues with both product and application.  In addition, unpredictable weather could create challenges for a just in time delivery strategy whether it is fertigation or side dress application.

This program uses a scenario based learning approach to help farmers better understand risks associated with various nitrogen fertilizer management strategies.  The program will include:
  • Review of Nitrogen Cycling, NUE, and Current Nitrogen Fertilizer Practices
  • A Large Group Nitrogen Management Scenario with Context Dependent Multiple Choice Questions
  • Small Group Breakout Session with Different Nitrogen Management Scenarios
  • Large Group Discussion of Small Group Scenarios
  • Create a Grower Plan of Action
At the end of the program the goal is for growers to take what they learned and put it into action.  Next steps could take the form of on-farm demonstration or research, which would open the door for future group learning or individual farmer followup.

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About the Extension Foundation

The Extension Foundation was formed in 2006 by Extension Directors and Administrators. Today, the Foundation partners with Cooperative Extension through liaison roles and a formal plan of work with the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP) to increase system capacity while providing programmatic services, and helping Extension programs scale and investigate new methods and models for implementing programs. The Foundation provides professional development to Cooperative Extension professionals and offers exclusive services to its members. In 2020 and 2021, the Extension Foundation has awarded 85% of its direct funding back to the Cooperative Extension System, 100% of funds are used to support Cooperative Extension initiatives. 

This technology is supported in part by New Technologies for Agriculture Extension grant no. 2020-41595-30123 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and membership funding. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the content are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For more information, please visit You can view the terms of useat

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