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Field Trip in Nutrient Management Spear Program

I am Zhehan Tang and I’m a rising senior in agriculture science major. Luckily, I can spend my first summer abroad in Cornell Nutrient Management Spear Program with Professor Quirine Ketterings, six undergraduate interns and other researchers.

Our team works on several different projects about nutrient management, for instance, some people do research about manure application, some focus on Greenseeker and NDVI, some work on corn stalk potassium study, etc. For me, I work on the project of double cropping winter cereal for forage after corn silage, and focus on the optimum nitrogen treatment of winter cereal.  Although we seven interns work for different projects, we are all willing to go to the field trip when someone need to do experiments in Aurora Research Farm or some other farms.

For me, averagely, I go to the field 2 days a week, and I always feel excited about the field trip, because born in a big city, I have never done so many experiments in the field, and almost doing everything in the field can be a new experience for me.

I remember that my first field trip was with Rachel, Issac and Aritotelis. We applied nitrogen fertilizer in the corn field for the entire afternoon. We have nine plots in that huge corn field, which I thought was the biggest corn field I have ever seen. Carrying bags of urea and walking through the field from plot to plot was a tiring but impressive experience. I felt like we were on a small boat in a green ocean, and when I walked across a line of tall corn, the leaves were just like green waves, and sometimes when I was in a low land, I couldn’t even see the edge of the field.


From then on, I have done several times of green house gas emission extraction in Aurora with Amir, who is a post-doctor in our group.


The picture above is the truck filled with the chambers, moisture meters, needles, tubes and other equipments that we use to do the green house gas extraction experiment.

IMG_5174Basically, we put chambers on the bases, which was fixed in the soil before. Then, we use clamps to make the gap between chamber and base small enough so that no gas will get out. Every two or one and a half minutes (depending on the field type), we use needles to extract the gas from the chambers and collect gas samples in small tubes. In the meantime, we need to measure soil temperature and soil moisture close to the chambers. I find that this is really a labor intensive and time consuming work, as one person can only manage an individual plot in an entire hour.

It’s true that these field works are all laborious, but maybe due to curiosity and novelty, I feel that field trips bring me a lot of fun.

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