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Sentera, University of Minnesota Partner on Nitrogen Deficiency Technology

Sentera and the University of Minnesota have penned an exclusive agreement to bring Nitrogen Deficiency Detection Analytics to the market. The technology allows farmers to more precisely manage applied nitrogen fertilizer to meet the needs of the crop. 

“Nitrogen management is one of the primary controllable cost components for corn growers,” says Sentera CEO Eric Taipale. “This technology enables tailored management practices aided by a real-time estimate of nitrogen status. Real-time feedback into existing prescription models delivers further refinement and reduces risk to the grower while improving the bottom line.”

Developed through University of Minnesota research, with support from the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, the technology detects nitrogen stress in corn using computer vision techniques that recognize characteristic features on plant leaves. The frequency and appearance of these features correlate directly to nitrogen deficiency. Deficiency information is then fed into models that incorporate other weather, soil, and similar information to generate a prescription to address the issue.

“The correct application of nitrogen is a critical variable in crop success and keeping agricultural practices from harming our environment,” says David Mulla, professor and Larson endowed chair in soil and water resources at the university’s college of food, agricultural and natural resource sciences. “Working with Sentera allows us to move the research we’ve done at the University of Minnesota into the hands of farmers quickly and efficiently. Producers will be able to be far more accurate in their fertilizer application, saving them money and keeping nitrogen out of the water.”

Generally, nitrogen stress in crops has been identified via more expensive manual techniques, or by using remote sensing technology that cannot distinguish between nitrogen and other crop stressors, such as diseases, pests, or other nutrient problems. In contrast, this technology can diagnose a nitrogen issue directly.

“The University of Minnesota is a leader in automated sensing technology, pioneering new methods for solving difficult problems,” says Nikolaos Papanikolopoulos, McKnight presidential endowed professor in computer science and engineering at the university’s college of science and engineering. “It’s exciting to see this technology being licensed and developed locally, and it’s another indication of Minnesota’s growing strength — academic and commercial — in the area of sophisticated sensing and analysis.”

Under the agreement, Sentera will integrate the capability into its FieldAgent platform. It has launched a trial program with some of its largest customers to test the technology. Nitrogen Deficiency Detection Analytics will be rolled out to FieldAgent subscribers during the 2019 growing season.

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