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Variable Rate nitrogen fertilization with digital technologies in winter wheat

Project: The project is a collaboration between Agroscope, ETH Zurich and the Swiss Future Farm.

Research question: Can drone, satellite imagery, and field data be used to optimize nitrogen application under field conditions and improve crop nitrogen fixation rates?


Study Design

Experiment type: subplots with different fertilization strategy based on aerial imagery (drone and satellite), historical and current field data.
Trial period: 2018-2021


Fertilization strategies

The following fertilization strategies are investigated:

  • Standard (ST): Normal flatrate fertilizer application

  • Variable Rate (VR): Subarea-specific variable fertilization based on aerial photographs

  • No nitrogen fertilization (NF): Reference


Applied technologies and equipment

  • Automatic guidance system with RTK accuracy of ± 2cm

  • Seed drill, fertilizer spreader, and sprayer with Section Control

  • Drone DJI Phantom 4 Pro with Parrot Sequoia and Sentinel-2 satellite imagery

  • Fertilizer spreader Sulky X40+ Econov with Variable Rate functionality and boundary spreading control


Results to date

The 2018 - 2020 results are compiled in the following publication:

SFF Annual Report 2020

The scientific publication on the experiments can be found at the following link:

Argento, Francesco & Anken, Thomas & Abt, F. & Vogelsanger, E. & Walter, A. & Liebisch, Frank. (2020). Site-specific nitrogen management in winter wheat supported by low-altitude remote sensing and soil data. Precision Agriculture.

Link to publication


Florian Abt
+41 79 567 11 04

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