Since 2008 I have served as the Precision Nutrient Management Extension Specialist for Oklahoma State University. I work in Wheat, Corn, Sorghum, Cotton, Soybean, Canola, Sweet Sorghum, Sesame, Pasture/Hay. My work focuses on providing information and tools to producers that will lead to improved nutrient management practices and increased profitability of Oklahoma production agriculture

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Sensing the N-Rich Strip and Using the SBNRC

With the significant swing in temperature over the last few weeks many are chomping at the bit to get outside.  The wheat is starting to respond to the good weather and N-Rich Strips are showing up around the state.  Over the past week I have had several calls concerning the impact of the cold weather on the N-Rich Strips.  Many of the fields either are still small due to limited days of warm weather and growth or may have a good deal of damage to the foliage.  If the field of concern has only a little or no damage and the strip is visible, the time to go is NOW, but if you cannot see the strip and your field has tissue damage or is small, similar to the first two images, then you will need to wait a week or two for sensor based recommendations.  Another situation fits with the third image, the field has freeze damage but the N-Rich Strip is also visible.   In this case the predicted yield level would be reduced do to the dead tissue making the N rate recommendation a little off.  I still however recommend using the sensor and online SBNRC (http://www.soiltesting.okstate.edu/SBNRC/SBNRC.php) to make or base top-dress N rate.  Even if the recommendation is a little off it will still be much more accurate than just guessing. However you must look at the SBNRC and ensure that it makes agronomic sense, if it does not consult your county educator or myself.   This is discussed in more detail in my earlier blog about freeze damage.  Keep in mind no matter what, if you can see the N-Rich Strip, everything outside of the strip is suffering from nitrogen deficiency.  Decisions and fertilizer applications need to be made soon, to maximize yield.

Winter Wheat and Nitrogen Rich Strips.

Winter Wheat and Nitrogen Rich Strips.

Regardless of whether or not the strip is visible you should be planning to sense with the GreenSeeker Handheld very soon. Remember the sensor has the ability to detect differences before your eyes can.   To sense the N-Rich Strip and Farmer Practice the user should carry the sensor approximately 30 to 40 inches above the crop canopy while holding the sensor level over the crop.  While you are walking the two area the trigger should be held the entire time.  I recommend walking at minimum 100 paces for each.    The average NDVI value seen on the screen will only stay on the screen for a few seconds.  Therefore it is critical you have a method of recording the number for later use. The sensor has limited memory so it will time out is the trigger is held for an extended period of time.  If you wish to collect more NDVI readings just do it in multiple trigger pulls recording each.  Once you have the average NDVI for the N-Rich Strip and Farmer Practice you can go to the SBNRC site mentioned above to retrieve the N rate recommendation.   Once in the calculator, for those in Oklahoma, choose the “within Oklahoma” option in the bottom left hand corner of the screen.  This will allow the calculator to access the Oklahoma Mesonet to determine growing degree days.  After the location is picked from the options you will need to enter Planting Date and Date Prior to Sensing.  Additional information requested is the expected grain and fertilizer prices.  While these inputs will provide some economic evaluations they will not impact recommended N rate.

GreenSeeker HandHeld NDVI Sensor

GreenSeeker HandHeld NDVI Sensor

Below is a YouTube video in which I describe how to use the GreenSeeker to collect NDVI readings, describe the data needed to complete the online calculator, and how to interrupt the calculators output.

First hollow stem advisor available on Mesonet


This is a great tool. It looks like we have very little time between green-up and hollowstem.

Originally posted on World of Wheat:

First hollow stem occurs just prior to jointing and is the optimal time to remove cattle from wheat pasture. A new first hollow stem advisor tool available on the Oklahoma Mesonet provides Oklahoma wheat farmers a real time assessment of the current first hollow stem situation in the state and a forecast for the next two weeks. While the first hollow stem advisor is a valuable tool, it is not a substitute for scouting, as conditions in your field may vary from the estimates provided.

The advisor uses a mathematical model that predicts the probability of first hollow stem based on soil heat units and wheat first hollow stem category (early, middle, or late). The model was developed by J.D. Carlson at OSU using first hollow stem data from the wheat variety testing program, and model development was made possible through a grant from the Oklahoma Wheat Commission.

You can navigate to…

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Time to start topdressing wheat


Great write up by Dr. Edwards.

Originally posted on World of Wheat:

There are few crop inputs that deliver as much return on investment as nitrogen fertilizer. It takes approximately two pounds of nitrogen, costing approximately $1.00, to produce one bushel of grain worth about $6.00. Of course, nitrogen is not the only yield determining factor in a wheat crop. Also, the law of diminishing marginal returns eventually kicks in, but nitrogen fertilizer is still one of the safest bets in the house.

Top dress nitrogen fertilizer is especially important because it is applied and utilized at a time when the plant is transitioning from vegetative to reproductive growth. Several things, including the number of potential grain sites, are determined just prior to jointing and it is imperative that the plant has the fuel it needs to complete these tasks. Jointing also marks the beginning of rapid nitrogen uptake by the plant which is used to build new leaves, stem, and the…

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Freeze Injury and N-Rich Strips

Dr. Jeff Edwards “OSUWheat” wrote about winter wheat freeze injury in a receive blog on World of Wheat, http://osuwheat.com/2013/12/19/freeze-injury/.  As Dr. Edwards notes injury at this stage rarely impact yield, therefore the fertility requirements of the crop has not significantly changed.  What will be impacted is how the N-Rich Strip and GreenSeeker™ sensor will be used.  This not suggesting abandoning the technology in fact time has shown it can be just as accurate after tissue damage.   It should be noted GreenSeeker™ NDVI readings should not be collected on a field that has recently been damaged.

A producer using the N-Rich Strip, GreenSeeker™, Sensor Based N-Rate Calculator approach on a field with freeze damage will need to consider a few points.  First there need to be a recovery period after significant tissue damage; this may be one to two weeks of good growth.   Sense areas that have had the same degree of damage as elevation and landscape position often impacts the level of damage.  It would be misleading to sense a area in the N-Rich strip that was not significantly damaged but an area in the Farmer Practice that took a great deal of tissue loss.

Finally we must consider how the SBNRC, available online at http://nue.okstate.edu/SBNRC/mesonet.php, works.  The calculator uses NDVI to estimate wheat biomass, which is directly related to grain yield.  This predicted grain yield is then used to calculate nitrogen (N) rate.  So if biomass is reduced, yield potential is reduced and N rate reduced.  The same issue is seen in dual purpose whet production.  So the approach that I recommend for the dual purpose guys is the same that I will recommend for those who experienced significant freeze damage.  This should not be used for wheat with just minimal tip burn.

To account for the loss of biomass, but not yield, planting date needs to be adjusted to “trick” the calculator into thinking the crop is younger and has greater potential.   Planting date should be move forward 7 or 14 days dependent  For example the first screen shot shows what the SBNRC would recommend using the real planting date.  In this case the potential yield is significantly underestimated.

The second and third screen shots show the impact of moving the planting date forward by 7 and 14 days respectively.  Note the increase in yield potential, which is the agronomically correct potential for field considering soil and plant condition, and increase in recommended N-rate recommendation.  Adjust the planting date, within the 7 to 14 day window, so that the yield potential YPN is at a level suitable to the field the yield condition and environment.  The number of days adjusted is related to the size and amount of loss.  The larger the wheat and or greater the biomass loss the further forward the planting date should be moved.  In the example below YPN goes from 37 bu ac on the true planting date to 45 bu ac with a 14 day correction.  The N-rate changes from 31 lbs to 38 lbs, this change may not be as much as you might expect.  That is because YP0, yield without additional N, also increases from 26 to 32 bushel.

freeze Zero day moveImage 1. Planting date 9/1/2013.  YPN 37 bu ac-1 and N-Rec 31 lbs ac-1.

Freeze 7 day moveImage 2. Planting date 9/8/2013.  YPN 40 bu ac-1 and N-Rec 34 lbs ac-1.

Freeze 14 day moveImage 3. Planting date 9/15/2013.  YPN 45 bu ac-1 and N-Rec 38 lbs ac-1.

This adjustment is only to be made when tissue has been lost or removed, not when you disagree with the yield potential.  If you have any questions about N-Rich Strips, the GreenSeeker™, or the online SBNRC please feel free to contact me at b.arnall@okstate.edu or 405.744.1722.

Ag Apps Updated

Since my Ag App post in July I have presented on the topic an additional five times and have two more on the books for 2014.  A good thing about doing talks is that you have to update the information to remain current.  Which in all honesty, when it comes to technology of any kind this is quite challenging and even more so for Smart Phone Apps.   In July when I first blogged on the subject I had 76 apps on my iPad.  Today (1.3.14) I have 111 apps on my iPad, for both the iPhone and iPad, that I deem to be Ag related. Since the summer I have found new favorites, changed some, and added categories but for the most part I still maintain my 2 minute rule stated in the first blog.  I have allowed a bit more leniency in that I now say “If I cannot figure it out in 3 minutes it’s GONE.  An app should be intuitive, easy to use and have a purpose.  They only exception to the 3 minute rule is the Scouting and Mapping Apps. Because of their complexity I allow them 5 minutes, and then I am done.  Any app with GIS in its name gets much more time”  I guess I am just getting soft.

Again I must make the obligatory statement; I am not a developer, designer, or expert.  I am just a user who has had a chance to look at a few apps. Almost all of the apps I have are free and I am sure I have missed a few.   Please share those with me.  I am also not discussing Mobi’s, this is another large group of quality decision aid tools.  I am also not discussing none apples apps.  This is not because they are not relevant or important, it is because I do not have that technology.

I now have nine Ag folders on my iPad:
Ag News/Weather/Markets, Scouting/Mapping, Record Keeping, ID Tools, Crop Tools, Calculators, Sprayer/Chemicals, Fertilizer, Seed Select.

Apps are nice because the majority are stand alone and do not need internet or cell connection.  This means they can be used when you are in the middle of nowhere, which is a great deal of Oklahoma, and have no service.  This will exclude many of the Ag News/Weather/Markets, Scouting/Mapping, and Record Keeping apps that need positioning or location information.

Now let’s discuss some of the new and old apps.

Ag News/Weather/Markets

news11 news2 news3

Not much change in this group however I have added one or two.


Scout2 Scout 1 Scout 3

This category has changed the most.  Record keeping apps have been removed and several new apps added.  The only free apps which can create boundaries are still Scout and Sirrus.  To date Scout remains to be my favorite app for in field scouting notes.  Pictures tagged with Lat Long and a note is very useful.  My knock on is app is its boundary creation.  It is a challenge every time as it is hard to remember the steps and not make a mistake.  That is where Sirrus comes to play, by far the best boundary creation app.  Sirrus has easy to use tools for both point and pivot boundaries.  I like the edit vertex zoom in tool that resembles a rifle scope.   I was able to add 12 fields in a matter of 20 minutes.  Being able to create grid soil sampling scheme and record samples is also a very nice tool.  My favorite part of the app, the UNDO button, and all apps should include this.  The drawback to Sirrus is that it has no ability to take notes such as Scout.  An additional nice scouting tool is South Dakota States NPIPM (North Plains IPM) app.  This app provides not only a pest id tool with morphological drop down, I will discuss this in the ID Tools cat, but also management recommendation for the identified insect.

Record Keeping,


The majority of the apps in this category are “Pay to Play”, which makes since as they deal with data management and storage.   Many would also fit the Scouting/Mapping category.  As I do not pay for many apps I do not have experience with any of these.  However this is the category that I would recommend any group to look at as they should be the all-inclusive app.  However, PeRK by the University of Nebraska is a free app designed for field records of pesticide applicators.

ID Tools,

id1 id2

I have added a few apps to this category but my favorites have not changed.  I regularly use Plant Images, ID Weeds, and the Pestbook as references.  I will add more discuss to app ID tools.  The importance of being able to ID weeds and Pest via morphological drop down menus (ID Weeds and NPIPM) is extremely important.  Many of the ID tools just have pictures and names.  Well is I am using an ID Tool I likely do not know what I am looking at or what it is called.

Crop Tools,


Crop Tools includes my second “Paid in Full” app.  And this one hurt a bit more.  Not because it cost money but because I have multiple versions of the hard copy.  However Field Guide by Purdue is one of my most recommended apps.  Field Guide is the electronic version of the Purdue Corn and Soybean Field Guide, which the majority of consultants in the Corn Belt likely have this sitting in their truck.   The Stoller apps also have nice very nice image bank of plant developmental phases.  FieldGuide and CornAdvisor, another good app, are great examples of what I expect to be coming out of the majority of the Land Grant Universities very soon.   Cooperative Extension has hundreds if not thousands of quality hard copy publications just waiting to be turned in to handy dandy apps.  To be honest I am working on turning my Nutrient Management Field Guide into an app right now.


calc1 clac2

Only two apps has been added to this category.  I am still using Fert.Removal, HarvestLoss and Growing Degrees on a regular basis.


spray1 spray2

Many apps have been added to this group but none of them have been good enough to kick TankMixCalc and SpraySelect of my favorites list.


fert1 fert2

Similar to the Sprayer/Chemicals category several apps have been added to this group, including several from Ok State.  For me the Fert Cost Calc is still very useful.  I do not get to use the Manure Calc I am very impressed by its layout and user friendliness.  This app allows for applicator calibration, nutrient recs and manure value estimator.

Seed Select,


It is no surprise the apps in this category are company created.  I will say for the central Great Plains Pioneer’s Canola Calc is very useful tool for selecting canola planting rate providing input for row spacing live plants, seed weight, Germ percent, and survival percent.

To wrap up this blog I want to share with you may new Favorite none ag app.  Bump is a huge time saver for anyone who takes pics with your iPhone or iPad.  Bump allows easy transfer between mobile devices but more importantly between your mobile device and desktop by a simple tap of the space bar.  This file share will go both directions.  This means no more emailing pictures from your phone so that you can have them on your desktop.  Bump is a iPhone app that can work on the iPad.

When searching with an IPad, remember to switch the search to include IPhone apps, there are some good ones out there that are IPhone only.  Check out www.npk.osktate.edu/presentations  to see screen shots from many of my favorite apps.

Freeze injury

Originally posted on World of Wheat:

Freeze injured plants from Cotton County, OK. Note the green, healthy leaf coming through the desiccated leaves in the plant on the right

Freeze injured plants from Cotton County, OK. Note the green, healthy leaf coming through the desiccated leaves in the plant on the right. These plants will make a full recovery with adequate moist and fertility.

Our recent extreme shifts in temperature have resulted in moderate to severe freeze injury in some Oklahoma wheat fields. To be honest, the damage is not as widespread or severe as I thought it would be given that most of our wheat had not had an opportunity to harden off. The dry soil conditions in western and southern Oklahoma did not help the situation, as there was not sufficient soil moisture to buffer the temperature shift in the top few inches of soil.

Freeze injury at this stage of growth (tillering) rarely impacts grain yield, but, as always, there are a few exceptions. Wheat that was very small or late-sown is more susceptible to winter…

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Nitrogen Rich Strips

The Nitrogen Rich Strip, or N-Rich Strip, is a technique/tool/process that I spend a great deal of time working with and talking about.  It is one of the most simplistic forms of precision agriculture a producer can adopt.  The concept of the N-Rich strip is to have an area in the field that has more nitrogen (N) than the rest.  Due to our fertilizer applicators this is typically a strip.  The approach maybe somewhat new but at one point most producers have had N-Rich Strips in their fields, albeit accidentally.  Before the days of auto-steer it was not uncommon, and honestly still is not, to see a area in the field that the fertilizer applicator either doubled up on or skipped.  In our pastures and dual purpose/graze out wheat every spring we can see the tell-tale signs of livestock deposits.  When over laps or “Cow Pox” become visible we can assume the rest of the field is behind in nitrogen.  I like to tell producers that the goal of the N-Rich strip is to make a really big cow pie.

Cow Pox, Image courtesy Kaitlyn Nelson
Cow Pox, Image courtesy Kaitlyn Nelson

What I like most about the N-Rich Strip approach is its Simplicity.  The N-Rich Strip is applied and; Scenario 1. The N-Rich Strip becomes visible (Greener) you APPLY NITROGEN, Scenario 2.  The strip is not visible you Option A. DON’T APPLY NITROGEN Option B. Apply Nitrogen Anyways.  The conclusion to apply N or not is based on the reasoning that the only difference between the N-Rich Strip and the area 10 ft from it is nitrogen, so if the strip is greener the rest of the field needs nitrogen.  If there is no difference N is not limiting and our research shows N does not have to be applied.  However producers who decide to be risk adverse (in terms of yield) can apply N but it would be advised to do so at a reduce the rate.  Now is a good time to note that the N-Rich Strip alone provides a Yes or No, not rate recommendation.  At OSU we use the GreenSeeker optical sensor and Sensor Based Nitrogen Rate Calculator (SBNRC) to determine the rate, but that discussion will come later.  I equate the change from using yield goal N rate recs to the N-Rich Strip as to going from foam markers to light bars on a sprayer.   Not 100% accurate but a great improvement.

N-Rich Strip in no-till wheat near Hobart OK.

N-Rich Strip in no-till wheat near Hobart OK.

Now that we have covered the WHY, lets get down to the nuts and bolts HOW, WHEN, WHERE.

How the strip is applied has more to do with convenience and availability than anything else but there are a few criteria I suggest be met. The strip should be at least 10 ft wide and 300 ft long.  The rate should be no less than 50 lbs N (above the rest of the field) for grain only wheat and canola, 80 lbs N for dual purpose wheat.  The normal recommendation is that when applying pre-plant either have a second, higher rate programmed into the applicator or make a second pass over an area already fertilized. Many will choose to rent a pull type spreader with urea for a day, hitting each field.
Becoming more popular are applicators made or adapted for use.  ATV sprayers are the most common as they can be multi-purpose.   In most cases a 20-25 gallon tank with a 1 gpm pump is placed on the ATV with an 8-10ft breakover boom.  The third applicator is a ride away sprayer with a boom running along the rear of the trailer.  In all cases when liquid is the source I recommend some form of streamer nozzle.  In most cases there is not a great deal of thought put into what source.  I recommend whichever source is the easiest, cheapest, and most convenient to apply.

Vincent N-Rich Strip Applicator, Ponca City OK

Vincent N-Rich Strip Applicator, Ponca City OK

Ok State N-Rich Applicator

Oklahoma State Univ. N-Rich Strip Applicator

Gard N-Rich Strip Applicator, Fairview Ok

Gard N-Rich Strip Applicator, Fairview Ok

When the strip is applied in winter crops proper timing is regionally dependent. For the Central Great Plains, ideally the fertilizer should be applied pre-plant or soon after.  However,  in most cases as long as the fertilizer is down by the first of November everything works.  This does not say a strip applied after this time doesn’t work but it leaves more room for error.  There is a chance the crop could already be stressed or the nitrogen tied up and not release in time.  However when the N-Rich Strip approach is used on the Eastern Shore in Virginia and Maryland the strips have to be applied at green up.  The soils in that region are very deep sands and nitrogen applied in the fall may not make it to the spring.  Also most wheat producers in the area make three or more applications of nitrogen unlike the two (pre and top) of the Great Plains.  It is always important to make the tools fit your specific regional needs and practices and not the other way around.

Where is actually the biggest unknown.  The basic answer is to place the N-Rich Strip in the area that best represents the field.  Many people question this as it doesn’t account for spacial variability in the field, and they are correct.  But my response is that in this case spatial variability is not the goal, temporal variability is.  Keeping in mind the goal is to take a field which has been receiving a flat yield goal recommendation for the last 30+ years and make a better flat rate recommendation.  My typically request is that on a field with significant variability either apply a strip long enough to cross the zones or apply smaller strips in each significant area.  This allows for in-season decisions.  I have seen some make the choice to ignore the variability in the field, made evident by the strip, and apply one rate and others choose the address the variability by applying two or more rates.  One key to the placement of N-Rich Strips is record keeping.  Either via notes or GPS, record the location of every strip.  This allows for the strips to be easily located at non-response sites.  It is also recommended to move the strip each year to avoid overloading the area with N.  

I hear a great deal of talk about how it would take to much time to put out the N-Rich Strip.  However the majority of producers that do it once on one field, end up doing it every year on every field. There is very likely someone in your area who is using the N-Rich Strips.   As top-dress grows closer keep an eye out for a blog “Using the GreenSeeker Sensor and Sensor Based Nitrogen Rate Calculator”.

For more information on N-Rich Strips check out the YouTube video below, visit http://www.npk.okstate.edu or contact me directly at b.arnall@okstate.edu.  I have lots of material I am happy to share and distribute.

See the YouTube Video  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJ3DSwWYgE8

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