Implementing the Agronomic Hub and Spoke Strategy

George Cummins, crops field specialist, Northeast Iowa      


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.


As an Extension adoption/diffusion strategy, the Hub and Spoke model has been introduced in northeast Iowa. Research projects are conducted at the Northeast Iowa Research Farm (the Hub) and similar replicated trials are established with on-farm cooperators (the Spokes) across the area. The Extension crop specialists have been involved in identifying cooperators; helping organize and establish the replicated studies; assisting with agronomic/economic data collection; analyzing, summarizing and disseminating the plot results; and coordinating a cooperator meeting open to the general public where the findings are shared and discussed. Initial efforts were limited to nutrient management/water quality projects. In the last two years, research projects addressing agronomic issues have been established. During the 2003 season, 15 projects were established with 12 cooperators in 7 counties. In 2004, 18 projects were conducted with 12 cooperators in 9 counties. The 2004 projects included: Soybeans W/WO insecticide seed treatment, Soybeans W/WO fungicide seed treatment; Soybean variety (maturity) comparison; Corn CRW Bt/NON Bt W/WO insecticide comparisons; N rate following alfalfa and soybeans; and Corn W/WO starter fertilizer. The cooperator meeting was held December 16, 2004 at the Northeast Iowa Research Farm.     


The cooperators meeting attracted 40 people and included cooperators, ag lenders, chemical company tech reps, crop consultants and local/state agency staff. Comments from the cooperators evaluations and/or meeting participants included:

a.) On-farm (Spokes) results are generally consistent with research farm results (the Hub). "I am more confident that recommendations based on small plot research are appropriate for my farming operation."

b.) "The economic analysis of on-farm trials is a welcome addition, and helpful in evaluating new technologies and company sales information/claims." The 2004 trials showed no yield/economic response for: sbn insecticide seed treatments ($5-7/acre); sbn fungicide seed treatments ($2-2.50/ acre); CRW Bt corn ($20/acre higher seed cost) in a corn/sbn rotation; or from starter fertilizer ($5.40/acre).

c.) "I can continue to reduce my N application rates. ISU recommendations for continuous and rotational corn were appropriate even in a wet year. I can reduce my N fertilizer costs $10-15/acre without sacrificing yield potential."

d.) A chemical company provided the insecticide for all seed treatment cooperators and also underwrote the expenses for the cooperators meeting.

e.) 3 of the meeting participants had never been to the Northeast Iowa Research Farm before.

f.) All cooperators indicated an interest in continuing; stressed the need for multi-year data; and identified additional topics for future Hub and Spoke Projects. "This has been a very beneficial experience. I appreciate being part of it."

Feb. 7, 2005 
142 - Integrated Pest and Crop Management

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