WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Farmers' Tools Include New Smartphone App

Nov 12, 2013

This is the time of year that many farmers apply nitrogen fertilizer to get ready for next year’s crop, now University of Illinois Extension is promoting a new tool to make it easier for farmers to apply the right amount.

If farmers put too much nitrogen on, the excess will wash into water ways. Which is both a bad investment for the farmer and damaging to the environment. Also if farmers put nitrogen into soil that is too warm, microbes break it down into a form that can more easily wash away. So safe to say knowing just how much nitrogen to apply and when is hard.

The iPhone version of University of Illinois Extension's nitrogen application app.
Credit U of I Extension

That’s why the University of Illinois Extension made a smartphone app to help calculate just how much to apply and when.

Angie Peltier at the Warren County office says extension went with an app to appeal to how farmers do business now.

"There might be a false narrative that farmers still do everything with pen and paper. These are businesspeople that have changed with the times the same that every other business person has," Peltier said.

The app is called MRTN or Maximum Return to Nitrogen. It’s available for Android or iPhone. For those who are without a smartphone, Extension issues a PDF crop handbook and provides a link to a network of soil temperature sensors.