Managing Nitrogen to Prevent Potential Yield Loss
March 30, 2015
Name: Moorea Brega
Title: Director of Quantitative Science at The Climate Corporation
Education: PhD, Statistics, University of California, Berkeley
Background: Moorea grew up in Colorado Springs and received her B.S. and M.S. degrees in applied mathematics from the University of Colorado Boulder.
There are many interactions in a farmer’s field between the crop, the soil and the weather. Understanding and capturing those interactions to develop the models behind The Climate Corporation’s products and services is an ongoing responsibility for Moorea Brega. As the agronomic modeling lead for the company, Moorea and her team of researchers build models that provide actionable insights to help farmers improve the efficiency and profitability of their operations.
Q: What makes you interested in the agricultural industry?
A: Given my background in applied mathematics and statistics, I am drawn to challenging problems. From a scientific perspective, agriculture is interesting because it’s complex, and there are many interactions happening in the field on a daily basis. Understanding and capturing these interactions, and providing farmers with tools to better manage them, can help solve the challenging problem of feeding our growing global population.
Q: Tell us more about your role at Climate.
A: I lead a diverse team of researchers who work to build agronomic models, including crop development, soil hydrology and nutrient availability, that support our Nitrogen Advisor, a management tool offered through Climate Pro™. We build models that take weather, soil and field characteristics, and management practices into account. On a daily basis, we model crop growth, nutrient availability, water usage and more. All of these elements can impact the farmer’s yield at the end of the season.
Q: What makes the modeling behind your tools unique?
A: Our tools are driven primarily by domain science, which captures the biological, chemical and physical processes that impact crop development throughout the season. These models are ground-truthed against available field trial data and farmer-provided data to ensure our models are capturing what’s happening on the ground. For example, we currently have over 2,000 ground measurements of soil nitrate and ammonia to ground truth our Nitrogen Advisor, in addition to data used to ground truth soil hydrology and crop development.
Q: Tell us more about Nitrogen Advisor and how it works.
A: Nitrogen Advisor is designed to provide farmers with deep insights into what’s happening in their field prior to planting and throughout the season. Farmers want to know if the nitrogen they have applied on their crop is going to be enough to keep their crop from suffering nutrient stress. Nitrogen Advisor is designed to provide farmers with insights into the current nutrient levels in their fields and the projected levels at the end of the season, taking into account the weather they experienced throughout the season.
Q: What makes Nitrogen Advisor unique?
A: Nutrient availability in the soil is a primary driver of yield. Favorable weather is the other primary yield driver, but we know weather can’t be controlled. I believe nutrient management is the most important factor farmers can influence throughout the season. That’s what Nitrogen Advisor does — it allows farmers to get ahead of potential yield loss, allowing them to make in-season nutrient management decisions. For example, Nitrogen Advisor allows farmers to view the amount of nitrogen loss throughout the season. Has there been nitrogen loss as a result of volatilization or denitrification, or as a result of leaching? Farmers know that when their crops experience heavy rain, it can increase leaching in the soil, reducing the amount of nitrate. What they haven’t been able to pinpoint is how much nitrogen they lost, and if they should apply more. Nitrogen Advisor can help farmers understand how unexpected weather events impact their available nitrogen. This can help them decide if they need to make an in-season application.
Q: How can farmers get more information about Climate services?
A: Farmers can talk to dealers and advisors who can help them learn more about using Climate services. There is a dealer locator tool at www.climatepro2015.com.