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Live NBalance tool

Live NBalance tool developed by John Deere and Airbus

SIMA 2019 Silver Medal


John Deere’s latest research and development work in association with Airbus has been rewarded with a second silver medal at the SIMA 2019 show, to be held in Paris from 24 to 28 February 2019.

With the Live NBalance tool, Airbus and John Deere are able to offer for the first time live monitoring of nitrogen balance in the field. This joint project is based on a combination of satellite images and machinery data, which continuously observe nitrogen uptake by the crop in each part of the field. During the growing season, the service allows the farmer to make more informed decisions on subsequent fertiliser applications. After harvest, it summarises the total N applied and removed, ready to use for regulation purposes.

Farmers currently cannot obtain accurate, site-specific information about applied and consumed nitrogen in their fields during the season; instead they have to make fertiliser management decisions based on personal experience and book values. In addition, they do not have any opportunity to precisely check the efficiency of a particular nitrogen application. John Deere and Airbus have therefore combined their know-how to prototype an unprecedented service, by merging both machinery data and satellite images.

The system allows farmers to enter the available nitrogen content at the start of the growing season. The nitrogen and NH4-N content of organic fertilisers can be measured precisely by the John Deere Manure Sensing System using the HarvestLab 3000 system on a slurry tanker. Live NBalance also considers the total supply of organic and mineral nitrogen over time, using as-applied data.

During the growing season, highly accurate satellite images observe the crop’s development and provide details of the total nitrogen uptake over time. Non-uniform uptake rates and delays in plant growth can also be identified, and the farmer is able to see how much nitrogen is still available to the crop at any time, or if the plants aren’t getting enough. This information allows application decisions to be adjusted accordingly and helps avoid excess fertiliser being applied to the field, so application quality can be very quickly assessed.

At harvest the HarvestLab 3000 sensor measures the nitrogen content in the crop for the season’s N balance and the total of nitrogen applied and removed is summarised ready for regulatory use. Farmers therefore receive more reliable feedback on the efficiency of their fertiliser applications. They can also replay a record of the season to put their daily farming operations into perspective alongside the final results, and as a result adapt if necessary their long-term site specific agronomic strategy as well as application practices.


All NBalance data is cloud-based and easily accessible for users, while also following high data privacy standards. The interactive dashboard provides a perfect overview and enables farmers to detect exactly when any developmental deviation occurs.

The first version of Live NBalance to be made available targets a full season’s applications. After this, a multi-annual system reflecting a complete crop rotation will be possible, to enable users to make a more comprehensive evaluation of the overall performance of their nitrogen fertiliser strategy at farm, crop and field levels.

Source: John Deere Walldorf GmbH & Co. KG