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Nitrogen management system from Cornell University wins $1M grand prize

Nitrogen management system from Cornell University wins $1M grand prize

Adapt-N won the Tulane Nitrogen Reduction Challenge

By Diego Flammini
News Reporter

A team of researchers from Cornell University were the recipients of a $1-million grand prize in a contest seeking innovative solutions to nitrogen runoff.

The team, led by soil and water management professor Harold van Es, developed Adapt-N, a cloud-based computer modeling system that predicts the optimum nitrogen application rates for crops. The system also takes weather, field conditions and soil management practices into account.

The team won the Tulane University Nitrogen Reduction Challenge, an international competition hosted by Tulane since 2014.

The team from Cornell competed against others from Illinois and California. The three groups tested their equipment on a farm in Louisiana (where Tulane University is located) this growing season.


To use Adapt-N, farmers have to enter some field information.

“The user enters some basic information on management practices like the date of planting, the type of corn hybrid that they are using, and some information on the soil like the organic matter content,” van Es says in a video describing the system.

Adapt-N uses the inputted data along with USDA information to simulate the nitrogen environment in the field.

The system then provides growers with a recommendation about how much nitrogen is needed for a crop to reach its full potential.

“The key idea is to match the nitrogen with the crop’s needs,” van Es says, adding that producers can cut their environmental impact by as much as 40 per cent.

Farmers who practice precision ag can even separate their fields into zones for more detailed information.

Members of Tulane’s community are excited for the school’s role in helping producers solve nitrogen runoff issues.

“This competition (and) this process has set in motion some of the great minds around the world thinking about an important problem,” said Mike Fitts, president of Tulane University. “This is such an inspired way for us to participate in solving world problems.”

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