Hub and Spoke Projects in NE and NC Iowa

George Cummins, Field Agronomist, Northeast

Problem Statement:

ISU has been conducting applied agronomic research across the state for many years. Current extension recommendations have been developed from these research findings. Many of our clients are unaware of the research farm network and the research findings and/or are not convinced that recommendations based on small plot research are appropriate for their specific farming operations.

Programmatic Response:

As an Extension adoption/ diffusion strategy, the Hub and Spoke model was introduced in NE Iowa in 2000 as part of a state-funded water quality project.  Agronomic demonstrations began in 2003.  From its inception the goals of this effort have been:

1.      To increase awareness of and interest in the research work conducted at NERF and other ISU research farms.

2.      To confirm research findings on-farm using cooperators farming systems.

3.      To introduce cooperators to the various tools used to make crop production and nutrient management decisions.

4.      To demonstrate the economic advantage and potential environmental impact of various crop production and nutrient management practices.

Research projects are conducted at the NE Research Farm and the Northern Research Farms (the Hubs) and similar replicated trials are established with on-farm cooperators (the Spokes) across the area. The Extension Field Agronomists (Cummins and Lang) have been involved in identifying cooperators; helping organize and establish the replicated studies; assisting with agronomic/ economic data collection; and analyzing, summarizing and disseminating the plot results. The number of demonstrations, cooperators and counties served has increased over time. In 2008, 49 demonstrations were conducted by 35 cooperators in 12 counties.  The demonstrations compare the productivity and profitability of various products and practices. In most cases the demonstrations are replicated and randomized so that the results can be statistically analyzed. The specific issues to be compared are identified by the cooperator. 2008 topics included: Soybeans W/WO seed treatment; Specialty soybean variety comparison; Soybean variety  X response to aphid treatment comparison; Soybean response to aphid treatment; Soybean foliar fungicide treatment and timing of treatment;   Soybean white mold study with Contans; Soybean varieties with different SCN resistances; soybean row spacing and population studies; CRW corn varieties with different Bt events; Corn fungicide treatment timing;  Bt CRW/ non Bt variety in  C-C and C-Sbn rotations; Continuous Corn W/ WO residue removal; a comparison of corn and soybean production in ridge-till/ no-till systems, foliar fungicide treatments and timing on corn,  Date of planting varieties W/ WO CRW Bt in continuous corn and corn response to sulfur fertilizer.  Demonstration data is summarized and published in a Hub and Spokes booklet which also includes related research results from the ISU Research Farms at Nashua and Kanawha and the Howard County Research Farm. This information is widely shared as the booklet, in electronic crop newsletters and media pieces and to add local experience to educational programs conducted by the Field Agronomists involved.


a.      Most of the cooperators have participated in this program for several years. They stress the need for multi-year data but also identify new topics for future Hub and Spoke Research Projects. “This data was collected on my farm using my farming system. The trials produce agronomic and economic comparisons. I have confidence in the results and have made subsequent management decisions based on them.” “I have results from my own trials that I can compare against advertising claims and dealer recommendations.”

b.      On-farm results (Spokes) were generally consistent with research farm results (Hub). “I am more confident that recommendations based on small plot research are appropriate for my farming operation.” “Many new products/ management strategies have not been tested long enough to appear in the Research Farm Annual Reports. My Hub and Spoke trials provide at least one years experience with new products/ practices to use in decision making.” “Hub and Spoke trials (13 years of Bt ECB / non Bt variety comparisons; Bt CRW/ non Bt variety comparisons in a C-C and C-Sbn comparison; and performance of Contans, a biological White mold control in soybeans; an agronomic and economic comparison of specialty soybean varieties; etc) have provided replicated, unbiased information that I could not find from any other source that I trust.” 

c.      “The economic analysis of on-farm trials is a welcome addition and helpful in evaluating new technologies and company sales information/claims”. “The commodity prices received for the 2008 crop and the rising input costs for 2009 compound varietal differences or differences in treatments making these trials and this information more valuable.” “Soybean aphid treatments on my farm showed a positive economic response. Foliar fungicide response was break even or negative.”  “ Sulfur trials showed a consistent economic response that correlates very well with soil texture and organic matter content.”  “Twelve years of Bt ECB/ non Bt isoline variety comparisons showed an average economic response for the Bt hybrids 8 years out of 13.” 

d.      “As a Hub and Spokes cooperator, I have a greater awareness of and appreciation for ISU Extension and their work with ISU research and on-farm demonstrations “. As a Board Member of the NE Iowa Ag Experimental Association, I am more comfortable soliciting financial support for the Borlaug Learning Center to be built at the NE Research Farm because of the valuable work conducted there.”

e.      Data collected from the corn foliar fungicide trials at the H&S site on the Howard County Experimental Farm and with a Corn/ Soybean Initiative (CSI) Partner in Floyd County were included in a statewide CSI summary that was shared across the state and the Midwest. Our data also included an evaluation of disease incidence and severity which is useful in explaining yield response to the various treatments. 

f.      Data collected from the comparison of 4 soybean varieties with different SCN resistance, conducted with a CSI Partner in Cerro Gordo County, was part of a statewide study funded by the Iowa Soybean Association.

g.      Cost recovery was provided by the Iowa Learning Farm Project, the Corn/ Soybean Initiative, the Iowa Soybean Disease Survey Project, the Iowa Soybean Association, and the Statewide Soybean Aphid Survey.

h.      This year, our CSI Partners and other agri-business representatives were actively involved in identifying demonstration topics and our on-farm cooperators, carrying out the demonstrations and/ or supplying in-kind support. We expect this working relationship to continue and expand in the future.

i.      The NE Research Farm summary of foliar fungicide studies involving 43 hybrid combinations in 6 different studies on continuous corn showed an average yield response of + 4.1 bu/acre, a range of yield response from -9 bu to + 22 bu/ acre and an economic response 53% of the time.

j.      The NE Research Farm summary of foliar fungicide studies involving 50 varieties in 5 different studies on soybeans following corn showed an average yield response of +1 bu/ acre, a range of yield response from -3.5 bu to +8 bu/ acre and an economic response 30% of the time.


100  Corn and Soybean Production and Protection

Page last updated: July 15, 2009
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