So far this growing season, UW Discovery Farms® has collected two types of soil samples on over 20 farms in 7 counties throughout Wisconsin. Samples will be used to understand soil health and to estimate the amount of nitrogen available for crop growth in the root zone on farms participating in their new Nitrogen Use Efficiency Project.

All of this is part of a three year long project funded by a Conservation Innovation Grant from the USDA-NRCS that will assist farmers in fine-tuning their cropping systems, making sure they get the most bushels of corn per pound of nitrogen possible.

“It is only the beginning,” explained Megan Chawner, Nitrogen Use Efficiency Project Coordinator. Later in the season they will collect additional plant and soil samples and field management information. “We will use these measurements to calculate nitrogen use efficiency, a tool that can help farmers know how much of their applied nitrogen ends up in the plant,” stated Chawner. Having a deeper understanding of nitrogen dynamics will allow for more efficient use of nutrients, benefiting both a farmer’s bottom line and state water resources.

The project does not stop at data collection. Collaboration is at its core. In the coming years the project will add additional farms, offer field days to share lessons learned, and develop a project database and online forum to connect farmers across Wisconsin. Information will flow in all directions affording farmers, researchers, and other partners the opportunity to work together on developing applicable nitrogen management strategies.

About UW Discovery Farms
For over 12 years, UW Discovery Farms has worked with Wisconsin farmers to identify the water quality impacts of different farming systems around the state. The program, which is part of UW-Extension, is under the direction of a farmer-led steering committee and takes a real-world approach to finding the most economical solutions to agriculture’s environmental challenges. If you are interested in learning more about UW Discovery Farms and their Nitrogen Use Efficiency Project, visit or contact Megan Chawner at