December 1, 2010
Meet Don Moore
Don Moore, with AET Consulting, Inc., located in the town of North East, MD, helps coordinate grower activities in the Bay Farms On-Farm Network in Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania. His work with nutrient management for producers predates his involvement with Bay Farms, though.
"We'd been doing pre-harvest stalk nitrate testing (PSNT) to try to help growers minimize the amount of guessing that had been done in using nitrogen fertilizer," he says. "Through the Bay Farms On-Farm Network, though, we've been able to move to guided stalk sampling, using aerial imagery and soils maps to choose where we take our stalk samples. It gives us a much more accurate picture of the nutrient situation in the field, and lets growers do a better job of analyzing their management.
"When we have the aerial image with the soils map over it, we can generally see any problems that are in the field and often can relate those back to production practices. You can't visually find the problem areas without the imagery, so you get a better representative stalk sample from the field," he says.
He says fewer than 60 fields were involved when the program began. "Once our growers began to see the value in this, they wanted to add more fields, and more people wanted to participate," he says.
Moore says most growers are anxious to look at new ways to manage nutrients, but don't want to do anything that would drastically reduce yields or profits. "They do realize we need to improve our management, and so are very receptive to the On-Farm Network program. We don't have any problems finding more growers and more fields for the program. The problem is finding the funding to include everyone who'd like to participate. This year, we were able to get imagery and stalk samples from about 175 fields on our growers farms."
Moore says now that multiple years of data is available, trends are showing up that gives growers confidence in trying management changes.
"We're at a point now, where we have enough data that several of these guys are beginning to put in replicated strip trials to look at rate reductions, to see if they can maintain yields and profitability with less applied nitrogen," he says. "It's definitely a win-win situation, if we can use guided stalk sampling and replicated strip trials to reduce our production costs while also minimizing any environmental impact to the Chesapeake Bay."