Automated, in-field measurement system for soil nitrate and other properties

Award Information
Agency: Department of Agriculture
Branch: N/A
Contract: N/A
Agency Tracking Number: 2010-02595
Amount: $356,550.00
Phase: Phase II
Program: SBIR
Awards Year: 2010
Solicitation Year: N/A
Solicitation Topic Code: 8.4
Solicitation Number: N/A
Small Business Information
601 N BROADWAY BLVD, Salina, KS, 67401
DUNS: 127952278
HUBZone Owned: N
Woman Owned: N
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: N
Principal Investigator
 Eric Lund
 (785) 825-1978
Business Contact
 Eric Lund
Title: President
Phone: (785) 825-1978
Research Institution
Nitrogen affects proteins, enzymes and metabolic processes and is essential for crop growth. While annual usage varies based on world economic conditions, approximately 80,000,000 metric tons of fertilizer N are applied annually in the world, of which more than 10,000,000 tons are applied annually in the United States. If crops don?t have an adequate supply of nitrogen, significant yield losses can occur. Consequently, growers typically apply an extra margin of fertilizer as insurance against possible yield reduction from under-application. Excessive nitrogen applications create a number of problems. First, excess nitrogen rates can contaminate water resources. Nitrogen lost from Midwest farm fields is a leading cause of the hypoxia zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Second, wasted nitrogen can cause a significant reduction in profitability, well beyond the cost of the wasted nitrogen. On crops like potatoes and sugar beets, excess nitrogen can cause a reduction in crop quality. Third, there is a negative impact to our atmosphere from applying nitrogen that is not consumed by the crop. Unused nitrogen enters the atmosphere as a potent greenhouse gas. As US farm policy becomes increasingly based on soil and water-quality initiatives, individual farm sustainability may be affected by a farmer?s ability to maintain production levels under closer scrutiny, and even mandates on the amount of fertilizer used. For each of these factors, improvements in managing nitrogen properly will increase the sustainability of their agro-economic production systems. These improvements include accurate assessments of available nitrogen already in the soil. Current approaches employ conventional soil sampling and lab analysis. Sampling depths required for nitrate are relatively deep. As a result, nitrate sampling is laborious, time-consuming, and expensive. Because the samples must be submitted to a testing lab for analysis, the delay in receiving results is a major problem for growers needing to apply fertilizer immediately. As a result of these and other obstacles, many fields that would benefit from improved nitrogen management are not sampled at all, or not sampled with the density required for accurate variable rate prescriptions. The Veris Technologies Automated Soil Measurement System will collect and analyze nitrate and other soil properties to a depth of 24? rapidly, accurately, and economically. The System will perform the measurements automatically, with no action required by the operator. Based on typical zone sampling for nitrate, this system will have a daily capacity of several hundred acres, and will be able to perform these measurements for a competitive price versus conventional sampling and lab analyses. This will offer growers major improvements in fertilizer management, reducing sampling cost, shortening turnaround time for soil test information, increasing precision of site-specific fertilizer applications.

* information listed above is at the time of submission.

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