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What is adaptive management?

Adaptive management is the process of refining a management strategy in response to evaluating its success. It takes into account data (measurements and observations) collected for local (often field level) conditions, and evaluates success based on scientific principles and local experience. This iterative and interactive learning process looks for win-win opportunities, so that the grower is able to adopt practices that make sense locally for increasing profits and reducing environmental impacts at the same time. The Adapt-N tool allows you to effectively implement adaptive N management strategies.

Why adaptive management?

Appropriate nitrogen management is of key importance in corn production systems because of the high cost of N fertilizer, the relatively large N inputs that are used, and concerns over N pollution of the environment. Currently, N is inefficiently used in corn production, with N recoveries usually lower than 50%. Corn response to N is highly variable, so the economically optimal N rate (EONR) may range from 0 to 225 lb/acre for a field depending on many factors. A number of recent studies show that this variability in EONR is highly influenced by weather, especially early-season rainfall. This uncertainty reduces farm profits and causes potentially high environmental losses to both surface and ground water (nitrate leaching) and to the atmosphere (ammonia volatilization and denitrification).

Adaptive and therefore more precise management of nitrogen on a field-by-field basis leads to higher profits from saving money on fertilizer when less is needed, but maintaining yields with higher inputs when more is needed. At the same time, losses, and therefore pollution of water and greenhouse gas emissions are minimized, because the largest losses happen when fertilizer inputs exceed crop N needs.

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