Nutrient management program gets new look

Agrisuite updates to better accommodate farmers

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Agrisuite, Ontario farmers’ nutrient management software, will have a fresh new look come winter.

Web browsers’ inability to support the aging software was the initial reason for the revamp, but the Agrisuite development team is taking the opportunity to advance, simplify and promote the program with funding from the Canadian Agricultural Partnership.

Why it matters: Agrisuite is a program dedicated to help farmers understand their nutrient requirements. A more efficient and easier-to-use program will encourage more farmers to adopt the practices and use nutrients correctly.

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“(The original nutrient management software) is perceived to be mainly a regulatory tool and perceived to be too complicated, therefore it was time to modernize the software and to incorporate individual stand-alone tools that are more compatible with industry needs and processes,” Christine Brown, field crop sustainability specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, said in a recent article posted on Field Crop News.

Each tool will be developed, tested and released individually. This allows farmers to try it out in its simple version and to see where the program is useful on their operations.

Recently, the first tool, the Crop Nutrient Calculator was launched. It calculates crop nutrient needs and is the first of many tools coming.

When soil test, yield, planned crop and location are provided, this tool delivers the crop nutritional needs and nutrient removal. This information can be saved and printed by the user and is not accessible to anyone beyond those selected by the user.

Other tools coming soon include:

  • Organic Amendment Calculator and Fertilizer Calculator
  • Assessing risk of phosphorus and nitrogen loss (PLATO calculator)
  • Determining manure storage sizing and manure volumes produced (MSTOR calculator)
  • Calculating minimum distance separation (MDS calculator)
  • Estimating greenhouse gas emissions (Greenhouse Gas Calculator)

“Those are the kind of one-off tools that we are trying to set up and then eventually the opportunity to combine the individual tools to complete a field or whole-farm nutrient management plan will be an option,” said Brown.

The Greenhouse Gas Emissions calculator is the only new tool to be added after this revamp and is planned to be the last one added.

The goal is to incorporate greenhouse gas emissions calculations to help better estimate greenhouse gas emissions specific to manure production, storage, application, fertilizer application and other practices for individual nutrient management plans.

“Even though we have talked about having it for years, we didn’t have the Ontario research data to support calculations,” said Brown.

The phosphorus loss calculator will be completely revised from the version in the current software. It is important for indicating risk of phosphorus loss to water.

“It has been supported by industry and will be incorporated into the Ontario retail 4R certification standards to ensure that risk of phosphorus loss has been considered in application practices.”

Next to be released, hopefully by Christmas, is the organic amendment calculator.

When provided with a complete manure analysis, including some micronutrients, and the rate of application, the calculator will deliver how much of each nutrient is being applied at that specific application rate. If the season of application is provided, spring versus fall, it will identify the amount of nitrogen that will be available.

Following this tool will be the launch of the fertilizer calculator, a tool to help determine nutrient needs for a crop before or after manure application and it will provide fertilizer blends to match those needs.

“We are hoping that this will be used not only for manure, but all organic amendments and even for people using only synthetic fertilizers.”

Brown said she receives numerous questions on how to calculate nutrient needs, available nutrients and manure value from a manure analysis. These are all questions that can be answered using the current Agrisuite program, and something which people may not realize.

“Even if they do (realize it), working through the various computer screens inputting the data to get there is difficult. The thinking behind the new Agrisuite is that providing these tools, one at a time, or as separate, simple calculators will familiarize users with the Ontario specific production information, and will make this ‘a tool I want to use.’”

Farmers are able to access and try out the new Agrisuite programs online, as they are being released. The current and new tools can be found at Ontario.ca/agrisuite.

The Agrisuite development team is interested in feedback from people using the new tools to ensure that the final product meets the needs of its users.

About the author

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Jennifer lives on a farm in Cayuga, Ontario and has a lot of experience in the many aspects of agriculture.

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