Creative Arrangement for On-Farm Research by ISU Extension Finds Local Answers on a Budget

Brian Lang, Extension Field Agronomist, Northeast Area

Problem Statement:

Farmers rely heavily on research to provide answers for questions on crop production.  Iowa State University works hard to provide these answers on regional outlying research and demonstration farms.  However, research is expensive, and as annual budgets have shrunk, it has become increasingly difficult to find resources to conduct trials on crop production.

Programmatic Response:

One answer to this dilemma, or at least a partial answer, has been achieved with cooperative efforts of the Howard County Experimental Farm Board, the Riceville FFA, and the northeast ISU Extension Field Agronomist.  These groups created an arrangement to share resources and expertise to conduct local crop production research.  The arrangement includes:

    1. The farmer-run board agrees to an annual compensation fee for the FFA to farm the 40 acres of land that remained in control of the farmer association following the closing of the ISU operated Howard County Experimental Farm decades ago.
    2. The farmer-run board, FFA instructor and ISU Extension Field Agronomist discuss and agreement on research projects to conduct.  The Field Agronomist develops the appropriate experimental designs for the research in question.
    3. The FFA arranges for appropriate seed, fertilizer, and pesticides for the intended research projects, as well as planting and harvesting the projects.
    4. The ISU Extension Field Agronomist works with the FFA on flagging plots, field scouting, timely application of treatments, and harvest.
    5. Production expenses are paid out of grain receipts.  The FFA benefits from its annual compensation fee.  ISU benefits from the on-farm replicated research projects.  And, profits on the farm are used by the farmer-run board for agricultural scholarships for FFA students.


ISU Extension benefits from this arrangement are many:

1.      ISU maintains an excellent working relationship with the farmers and FFA in Howard County, and is recognized as a trusted authority in conducting agricultural research.

2.     Research results get wide-spread use:

a.     Presented at the Howard County Experimental Farms annual winter meeting and annual summer field day.
b.     Shared with ISU Extension on campus to include with other related research, e.g. state-wide foliar fungicide research on corn and soybeans, aphid research on soybeans, sulfur fertilizer research on corn, northern extended diapause corn rootworm research, soybean disease survey, and more.

c.     Presented each winter at Private Pesticide Applicator meetings reaching over 2,200 farmers.
d.     Presented with other research at other annual events including the Crop Advantage Conference, Ag Professional Tours, and various Ag Dealer programs.

3.     ISU Extension has conducted 15 field-scale research trials at this site in the last 5 years at a cost to ISU of just Field Agronomist travel expense and research plot data collection.

This cooperative arrangement enhances, but does not substitute for the more detailed and larger scope of research conducted at the outlying ISU research and demonstration farms.  But it does provide a lower-cost means to conduct research of specific interest to farmers and ISU in a region of the state that would otherwise not see this research.


100  Corn and Soybean Production

Page last updated: April 11, 2008
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