Grain News

University of Illinois Project Seeks Grain Samples

Date Posted: June 24, 2014

Urbana, IL—There is some evidence that the “book values” that have been used for many years to calculate the amount of phosphorus and potassium removed by grain during harvest may no longer be accurate for the crops produced today, said a University of Illinois crop scientist.

“The economic and environmental advantages of matching crop removal to replacement with fertilizer nutrients makes it important to have good removal numbers,” said Emerson Nafziger.

With funding from the Nutrient Research and Education Council (NREC), Nafziger said a new project starting up in 2014 may provide a better idea of how much nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) are contained in harvested grain of corn, soybean, and wheat.

“This seems like a simple thing to measure, but we expect that things like yield level, soil, crop variety, and growing season weather affect many nutrient levels. Thus we will need to sample widely in order to get a handle on removal,” he said.

Nafziger said he hopes to get most of the grain samples needed for the study from individual producers across Illinois, with samples sent in right out of the field, when grain is stored, or after it is delivered to the elevator.

He added that they will start looking at wheat samples first.

Samples can be sent in now by following the procedure below:

1. Before harvest or at the time grain is stored or moved, the cooperating producer will send an email to to request a mailer. The email should contain the cooperator’s name, mailing address, and what grain (wheat, corn, or soybean) is being sent in. If the mailing address is in a different county than the field the sample comes from, please indicate what county the sample will be from.

2. Prepaid mailers will be sent to the cooperator. The mailer will include a plastic sample bag with a label that has the cooperator’s name, crop, and a blank to fill in with the yield level (estimated or measured) of the field from which the sample came (or will come).

3. The sample bag is sized to hold about 6 to 8 ounces of grain, which is all that is needed, Nafziger said. The grain should be dry (at or below standard moisture) in order for it to keep well during shipping. Place the bag with grain into the mailer and drop it into the U.S. mail. It will be pre-addressed to go to a lab for analysis.

“While we are hoping for many cooperators, sample numbers will be limited by the funds available.

"That may mean limiting samples from an area where a lot of people volunteer to send samples,” Nafziger explained.

“If a local elevator would like to send samples from trucks coming to unload, that would work, but would mean recording names, addresses, and yield levels at the point of collection.

"We would appreciate seed companies or other ag retail personnel encouraging individual producers to take part.”

Results will be summarized by region with no identification of individual cooperators.

Samples will be collected over 2014 and 2015.

“With a large number of samples, we will be able to see how much variability there is in removal numbers and to generate better removal numbers for Illinois producers,” Nafziger said.

Contact Nafziger at 217-333-9658 or for more information.

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