GreenSeeker, a relatively new technology just now finding its way into the hands of savvy farmers around the world, is becoming easier for farmers to handle and to afford as it becomes more refined.

Brian Arnall, Oklahoma State University assistant professor of soil fertility, works with precision soil nutrients and is the go to guy for GreenSeeker technology at OSU.

Development of the GreenSeeker technology is based on three factors, Arnall said.

"First, there are yield differences from year to year in all crops. Second, the amount of natural nitrogen available to crops varies from year to year. And third, plant nutrient needs are different each year," he said.

OSU scientists began working on ways to better determine nitrogen needsof growing crops during the 1990s, Arnall said. The first commercial sensor became available in 2002.

Using nitrogen-enriched strips planted across fields to be used with the sensor technology started in 2001 and 2002, Arnall said.

Long-term research has proven the amount of nitrogen required to achieve maximum crop yields varies significantly from year to year. Reducing pre-plant nitrogen application and using the nitrogen rich strip to establish a rich nitrogen environment allows a mid-season check to see if any additional nitrogen needs to be applied to get top crop yields. Just as importantly, if none or only a small amount is needed, using GreenSeeker with the enriched strips helps a farmer save money, Arnall said.

OSU agronomists are now working to make the technology available in hand-held units. Using one of these units, a farmer can walk across a field and check the nitrogen level. Making the units smaller will also reduce the cost of them, Arnall said.

Growers using the system apply a reduced rate of nitrogen early, and then topdress the crop based on what the GreenSeeker reveals about the crop during the growing season.

"We have GreenSeeker programs for winter wheat, corn, grain sorghumand cotton," Arnall said. "Using a program developed in Canada for canola, we are adapting this program for use in growing canola in the Southern Plains."

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