What we Learned About Drone-based Nitrogen Management on Corn

With the 2017 growing season wrapping up, we wanted to share what we have learned so far in our drone based nitrogen management project.

We will be presenting a summary poster at the Agronomy Society Annual Meeting in Tampa, FL later this month. Click here to view a PDF of the poster and see what we have learned so far!

Read on for a quick synopsis!


  • We established 3 pre-plant nitrogen rates in Feb. 2017 – 75 lb/ac, 100 lb/ac, and 160 lb/ac. The 160 lb/ac rate represented the traditional farmer management. Drone imagery was collected to determine how much nitrogen to apply to the 75 lb/ac and 100 lb/ac pre-plant strips.  The farmer managed strips (160 lb/ac pre-plant), were given 40 lb/ac in-season.

Key Highlights:

  • Using infrared drone imagery, we were able to detect nitrogen need sooner than would be possible using regular, true-color imagery alone.
  • The imagery collected before and after the in-season nitrogen application revealed that differences which existed prior to application were no longer present after nitrogen application. This suggests that following the in-season nitrogen application, the crop was able to recover from any nitrogen deficiency.
  • Both the 75 and 100 lb/ac pre-plant rates resulted in less total nitrogen application than the farmer rate.
  • Costs for nitrogen fertilizer and application were comparable between the 3 treatments.
  • There was no yield difference between the farmer managed strips and drone managed strips.
  • The drone managed strips had a higher nitrogen use efficiency than the farmer managed strips.

Click here to read the full poster for all the details!


Poster download: Drone_Nitrogen_Mgmt_Summary_2017

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