Nitrogen Use Efficiency & Uptake

In this use case, the GeoPard team highlights the significance of Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE) in precision farming, as demonstrated through their collaboration with LVA, a John Deere dealer in Germany. The full case study can be accessed at the LINK. At the core of the approach is the calculation of a comprehensive Nitrogen Usage Profile for each field, utilizing data documented by machinery. This profile encompasses several crucial elements: Total Applied Nitrogen (TAN) based on machinery operations, Nitrogen Uptake (NU) derived from harvesting data, Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE), and Nitrogen Surplus (NS). Such in-depth profiling enables growers to assess and refine their agronomic strategies for the upcoming season, promoting more cost-effective and sustainable farming practices.

Field Context

In 2023, Baumgärtel GbR focused on improving wheat growth in their fields. They implemented a four-step nitrogen application strategy, initiating with an SSA treatment in February and then proceeding with three subsequent AHL treatments during spring. This nitrogen application was tailored using a site-specific methodology. Moreover, the HarvestLab GrainSensing System played an important role, offering the crude protein data layer, which is directly associated with the nitrogen absorbed by the plants.

More detailed context about Baumgärtel GbR and their Nitrogen experiments is available HERE.

Data Capturing and Preparation

Machinery-collected datasets are crucial for the calculation of the Nitrogen Usage Profile. And GeoPard's efficient integration with the JohnDeere Operation Center is pivotal in ensuring the timely collection of this data. As operations are recorded, GeoPard automatically captures datasets linked to operations like harvesting, spraying, fertilizing, seeding, and tillage.

Beyond John Deere, GeoPard is adept at handling data imports from a range of machinery data providers via API, and it also accommodates manual data uploads, whether as shapefile or proprietary formats specific to different machinery manufacturers.

Essential for the Nitrogen Profiling are datasets documented applied Nitrogen Applications carried out during the season and Harvesting (Yield) Data.

Nitrogen Application Data

During the 2023 growing season, the wheat crop underwent a meticulously structured nitrogen application schedule, comprising four separate treatments:

  1. SSA product on February 23, 2023

  2. AHL product on March 18, 2023

  3. AHL product on April 6, 2023

  4. AHL product on May 13, 2023.

Harvesting (Yield) Data

The August 8, 2023, harvest dataset, featuring key attributes like WetMass and CrudeProtein, serves as a foundation for calculating Nitrogen Uptake (NU). However, to ensure analytical precision and account for variability, additional calibration of the Yield Dataset is essential, especially in instances of exceptional yields, such as the notable 19 t/ha for wheat.

Total Applied Nitrogen (TAN)

Total Applied Nitrogen (TAN) represents the total nitrogen applied to a field, measured in kg/ha, and is calculated from the sum of actual nitrogen products used during the crop season. In pursuit of maximum accuracy, this evaluation exclusively considers the actual AppliedRate data.

Nitrogen Uptake (NU)

Nitrogen Uptake (NU) quantifies the nitrogen consumed by plants during their growth season and is calculated using two vital components: the crude protein measurement from the HarvestLab Grain Sensing System (1) and the total harvested yield mass (2). Here NU is expressed in absolute terms as kg/ha.

Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE)

Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE) is the ratio of consumed Nitrogen to total applied Nitrogen, expressed in percentages, and is calculated from Nitrogen Uptake (NU) and Total Applied Nitrogen (TAN).

An NUE near 100% signifies optimal utilization where plants have consumed almost all applied Nitrogen.

Whereas values around 50% indicate over-application, leading to residual Nitrogen in the soil.

And values over 100% suggest under-application, relying on soil Nitrogen reserves.

These extremes, depicted in a visual map, are both undesirable: low NUE points to excess fertilization (shown in red), while high NUE indicates soil depletion (shown in green).

Nitrogen Surplus (NS)

Nitrogen Surplus (NS) is the difference between the Total Applied Nitrogen (TAN) and the Nitrogen Uptake (NU) by plants, expressed in kg/ha, indicating the unused Nitrogen in a season. This metric is crucial for planning Nitrogen applications for the following season. It is visually represented in the following map.


  1. Data Capturing: GeoPard's seamless integration with the John Deere Operations Center enables real-time and accurate data capture, forming the backbone of all subsequent analytics. Additionally, GeoPard API capabilities extend to working with various machinery proprietary formats, ensuring comprehensive data incorporation. Additional data calibration is required and incorporated as part of the subsequent analytics in GeoPard.

  2. Nitrogen Usage Profile: The Nitrogen Usage Profile, encompassing Total Applied Nitrogen (TAN), Nitrogen Uptake (NU), Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE), and Nitrogen Surplus (NS), provides a holistic view of nitrogen geospatial and statistical dynamics in the field. These metrics collectively guide crop growers in understanding the complete nitrogen lifecycle and its efficient management in the season.

  3. Adaptive Nitrogen Strategies: By leveraging insights from the Nitrogen Usage Profile, growers can fine-tune their nitrogen application strategies, catering to the diverse needs of different field areas. This approach not only enhances crop yields but also promotes sustainable and efficient agricultural practices, addressing the unique nitrogen requirements (costs) of various field sections.

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