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Iowa Nitrogen Initiative

Recruiting Farmer Collaborators for 2023

Would you like to better understand and predict the optimum nitrogen fertilizer rate within and across your fields? We’re looking for farmers to participate in our field trials for 2023. View our recruitment flyer to learn more.


Nitrogen fertilizer is among the most critical inputs to crop production – and one of the costliest. When applied at the optimum rate, nitrogen boosts productivity and profitability and avoids the environmental costs of excess application. However, finding the optimum application rate can be a challenge: it can vary by more than 100% from field-to-field and year-to-year.


The Iowa Nitrogen Initiative is a private-public partnership with a vision to provide Iowans with the best nitrogen science in the world for the benefit of productivity, profitability, and environmental performance.


We are working alongside agricultural service providers, farmers, and their advisors to design, execute, and interpret hundreds of coordinated on-farm, scientifically robust research trials every year. These trials provide data that helps us understand the interactions among genetics, weather, soil type, and management, and how those impact cropping system outcomes.

This on-farm data infrastructure will allow ISU to use the latest advances in super-computing and quantitative modeling to forecast best management practices and demonstrate how Iowa farmers can maximize efficiency of their dynamic operations.


  1. Design and deploy a system of 100s of on-farm scientifically robust nitrogen fertilizer rate trials every year through a public-private partnership.
  2. Develop a nitrogen rate trial database that enables researchers to understand and interpret how various crop systems, genetics, soil types, and weather-years affect optimum nitrogen fertilizer rates. The database will ensure farmer anonymity and translate data into a public-facing tool (Objective 3) that allows all Iowans to observe rational nitrogen rates.
  3. Update and enrich nitrogen recommendations with a dynamic benchmarking tool that allows users to move beyond the average by identifying the genetic, environment, management, and weather factors behind each trial.
  4. Develop a forecasting tool that predicts cropping systems dynamics across soil types and weather years, allowing farmers to respond to current conditions.
  5. Develop a hindcasting tool that allows farmers to compare what they did to what they could have done.

Iowa Nitrogen Initiative on-farm trial locations pin pointed on a map of Iowa's physiographic regions

In 2022, we conducted 150 trials across the state of Iowa.

  • 67 trials were conducted in farmer fields (green circles)
  • 83 trials were in ISU Research Farm fields (blue squares)

We aim to grow this number to 400 by 2024.


We are currently recruiting farmers, certified crop advisers, and custom fertilizer applicators for 2023 trials. To learn more, view our recruitment flyer.



Principal Investigators
Associate Professor
Pioneer Hi-Bred Agronomy Professor
Photo Credit: Kathryn Gamble
1216 Agron
(515) 294 7413
William T. Frankenberger Professorship in Soil Science
2104l Agronomy 716 Farm House Ln
(515) 294-3963
Assoc. Director, Iowa Nitrogen Initiative
2019 Agronomy Hall 716 Farm House Lane