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Farmers discuss nitrogen sensor technology

About 75 people, including farmers, technical advisers, representatives of farmers Unions, academics, government officials, (SAGARPA State vice-representative, and Chair of the Phytosanitary Authority Local Board), and the media attended a special event with CIMMYT scientist Ivan Ortiz Monasterio and research assistant Dolores Vázquez in Ciudad Obregon this week. The meeting, organized by the Asociación de Organismos Agrícolas del Sur de Sonora (AOASS), the umbrella institution for farmers unions, was held to discuss the results of this season’s trials of nitrogen sensor technology to optimize fertilizer applications. For the second year a group of wheat farmers in the Yaqui valley worked with CIMMYT to test the technology.

The infrared sensor, combined with computer software in a handheld computer, can give farmers an indication of how much fertilizer to apply. Optimizing the nitrogen fertilizer application can benefit the farmer by reducing costs and benefit the environment by reducing fertilizer runoff. This is one example of partnerships with Stanford University of studies on environmental impacts of agriculture in the Yaqui Valley. The demonstration data showed that during the 2005-2006 crop cycle, the average per hectare income from seven participating farmer’s fields was US $50 higher with the use of the sensor compared to traditional fertilizer practices.

All three farmers that talked about the technology at the meeting said they supported its use. Much of the sensor to work has been done in collaboration with Oklahoma State University. Several newspapers and television stations covered the event, including Sonora State’s main newspaper, El Imparcial. After the presentations, AOASS announced that they will support the necessary activities to spread the use of this technology more widely by farmers and they asked CIMMYT to prepare a proposal on how to do this.