Commercial Nitrogen Optimization Pilot Grant Program

​​​​​​​​​​​​​Introduction to Pr​​ogram​​
The Nitrogen Optimization Pilot Program (NOPP) ​is now accepting applications for the 2024-2025 grant cycle! Read more in the following press release: ​

​​NOPP is designed to encourage agricultural producers to develop innovative approaches to optimize the application of commercial nitrogen for a duration of at least two growing seasons. The producers must collaborate with a UWS institution, which will monitor the grant project on-site. The total award to an applicant cannot exceed $40,000.

Under 92.14(1​6), Stats., grant recipients must meet all of the following eligibility requirements to be considered for funding:

  • Project must include two growing seasons.
  • UWS institution should monitor the grant project on-site.
  • Priority will be given to innovative projects not currently funded through state or federal programs.
  • Priority will be given for longer-term projects.

DATCP will hold a public hearing​ on EmR 2317 on December 8, 2023.

 NOPP Spotlights ​ ​

Field-Scale Corn Nitrogen Rate Study on Irrigated Loamy Sands
Tom Novak​

Tom Novak is a 2023 Nitrogen Optimization Pilot Program grant recipient evaluating corn MRTN rates on coarse vs loam soil types. Novak had this to say about his long history of on-farm research and why it’s important to keep asking questions: “Back in the late 90's, I teamed up doing N rate trials with our Jefferson County Crops and Soils agent, Matt Hanson, and we continued trials for the next 10 years. One of the results taught us that being efficient with N use (side-dressing) was extremely important when discussing what the 'correct' N rate should be. This decade of trials also showed us the UW-recommended rates were adequate. However, some things, like non-responsive trials, nagged at us and we never got the 'why' figured out. Flash forward to the present day, and with a good funding source in place, we can run different tests, like preplant N, pre-sidedress N, ear leaf samples, and more, which were too expensive when we had no budget! This will help us understand the 'why' when odd things happen. 

The new twist over this two-year project is beyond getting yield data over six N rates; I'm comparing light sandy loam soils to some black loam soils to see if optimum N rates at each yield level is the same, or if not, can we get by with less N on lighter/droughty soils as some variable rate models suggest.”

N Rate for best Winter Triticale  
Evaluating Biological N Project

Jim Hebbe is a 2023 Nitrogen Optimization Pilot Program grant recipient evaluating a biological nitrogen product in maintaining corn yield. When asked why he chose to apply for a grant to study this topic, Jim said it had a lot to do with lack of available research: “My normal source of info for a lot of farm decisions starts with UW. So, I contacted our local Extension Educator, Natasha Paris, and asked what the university is saying about Pivot Bio PROVEN® 40. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any university research to help make a good decision. All of a sudden, the NOPP grant was announced, and we thought this would be a wonderful thing to do. Natasha provided the support and confidence that we could do this together.” 

The responsibility of using nitrogen efficiently is something that Jim takes very seriously.

“I’ve worked with Matt Ruark through the years on nitrogen plots on our farm and always thought this was a good thing to do. We drink our groundwater, too, and we certainly don’t want to be overapplying nitrogen. ​It’s exciting to think that, if a product like [Pivot Bio PROVEN® 40] can and will work, I love the idea of 40 units of nitrogen that isn’t needing to be produced with fossil fuel. We want to have confidence that things are done correctly. With myself being the consumer of nitrogen, I’m going to be critical of decisions and use of nitrogen because I’m the stakeholder.”​​​

MRTN rate and Soil Types


Four farms affiliated with the Lafayette Ag Stewardship Alliance (LASA) are Nitrogen Optimization Pilot Program (NOPP) grant recipients. Their project is designed to explore the following question: “What is the optimum N rate that maximizes profitable corn grain production and limits the risk of N loss to environmental factors when planted green into cereal rye cover crop?" The group asserts that understanding the N cycle within a cover crop system is paramount to successful N management, noting that the N immobilization rate of cereal grain cover crops is expected to increase as the C:N ratio of cover crops increases. 

Another motivating factor for pursuing NOPP funding is the opportunity to conduct local on-farm, field-scale research within the driftless region of Wisconsin. Due to a high risk of soil and nutrient runoff and nutrient leaching in this geography, this project will evaluate the N management requirements necessary to increase acres of cover cropping and no-till across the region. In addition, the ability for producers to conduct field-scale research on-farm offers increased validity and acceptance amongst growers compared to remote, small-plot research.

Evaluating biological additive

Brendon Blank is a 2023 Nitrogen Optimization Pilot Program grant recipient with a project titled “N rate for best Winter Triticale forage yield, quality, & phosphorous removal". Partnering with 3 farms in Dodge County, Brendon is hoping to find answers to some of his questions: “I see winter triticale as a growing interest in dairies and there has been a lot of success with it but, there have also been failures and disappointments, so we want to finetune what makes the system work best. From the nitrogen standpoint, the grasses are unique in the fact that, the more nitrogen you put on, the more you increase protein level of the crop. This makes it more difficult to determine the economic plateau – it's a more dynamic system with more work to figure out where the plateau is. Can we fertilize beyond our yield plateau economically? Is it more economical to fertilize to yield or quality? I also think about the nutrient management aspect of it from a manure standpoint – can we pull more phosphorus out of the system? From a soil health standpoint, it can be beneficial in the long-term, but [adding a crop] results in a new management system with different timings. If we give up corn silage yield [to accommodate triticale planting], are we getting something back in triticale yield?"

To read more NOPP project updates, visit the NOPP Project Spotlight Archives. ​