Precision Agriculture in Nutrient Management for Field Crops

Worksite Location
Project is statewide. Given the intern will work with extension in western and northern NY and travel to farms in central and eastern NY as well, the worksite location is in Ithaca, New York, with frequent trips to especially western and northern NY.
Project Dates
June 1 through August 15
Faculty Sponsor
Quirine Ketterings
Other Campus-Based Mentors/Supervisors
Karl Czymmek, Tulsi Kharel (postdoc), Greg Godwin (tech)
Field Mentors/Supervisors
Jodi Putnam, Northwestern New York, and Mike Hunter, Northern New York Field Crops Teams, Cornell Cooperative Extension.
Wages Up To
Project Summary and Intended Outcomes

In 2018, the Cornell Nutrient Management Spear Program in collaboration with Cornell Cooperative Extension field crops educators, crop consultants, and farmers implemented 26 on-farm nitrogen strips in fields for which yield stability zones had been developed based on corn silage or corn grain yield data of three or more growing seasons. The purpose of the project is to evaluate zone-based management of nitrogen for corn, and more specifically to develop on-farm strategies to evaluate crop yield and quality response to nitrogen fertilizer and manure management strategies. The 2019 internship allows the student to get fully involved in the project and learn about precision agriculture in general, understand yield monitoring equipment, data collection and analyses, data collection with active crop sensors, unmanned aerial systems (UAS or drones), satellite imagery, and field-based soil and plant sampling and analyses. Work will take place at commercial farms in central, western and northern NY but the applied research and extension programming on use of precision agriculture technology will benefit field crop and dairy producers throughout the state. The internship, based in Ithaca but with frequent travel, provides an outstanding opportunity for an agriculturalist-in-training to work with professionals as they interact with producers, agribusiness, research specialists and the general public.

Roles and Responsibilities

The intern will assist with the precision agriculture project (trial set-up and management, weekly flights/ scans, data collection, data analyses, data presentation) and other on-farm research projects and surveys conducted by the team. The student will have the opportunity to write an agronomy fact sheet (, and participate in various extension events, ranging from attending meetings for producers, interactions with local crop consulting firms, to attendance and presentation of the project at Cornell field days.

Qualifications and Previous Coursework

Must be a full-time CALS sophomore or junior. Graduating seniors are not eligible. Must meet NYS Department of Motor Vehicle requirement. A significant amount of driving will be required. Overnight travel is likely limited to 1-2 trips to Northern NY. A strong interest in production agriculture is essential. Coursework and/or practical experience in field crop production, soil science, and pest/disease management are preferred. Good organizational skills. Experience with ARC-GIS preferred. A willingness to work hard, learn quickly, and professionally interact with farmers and other members of the agricultural community are essential for success in this position. The intern should be able to endure rigorous physical labor under adverse weather conditions sometimes encountered in the field. Work on-farm might require early mornings, late nights, and the occasional day on the weekend. 

Benefits and Skills

The student will gain a better understanding of precision agriculture, use of yield monitors, crop sensing and imaging technology, use of unmanned aerial systems (drones), and fertility management of field crops. The student will gain skills in field data collection, laboratory analyses, data analyses, and development of extension materials. The student will also get exposure to various agricultural professions (consultants, farmers, agency staff) and gain a greater appreciation of the types of jobs he or she could be involved in beyond graduation from Cornell.