"Crop Update" Newsletter

Joel DeJong, crops field specialist


Making timely management decisions based on research during the growing season is difficult for crop producers. Extension Specialists do not have the time and numbers to make individual contacts directly with producers when a problem arises. Many producers rely on local agronomists for input in these management decisions. How do we get good research replicated decision-making information into the hands of producers when there are not many Extension Crop Specialists in Iowa?


The "Crop Update" newsletter was first distributed 7 years ago. This newsletter was originally designed and targeted to agronomists, but as they shared it with producers, the demand became more widespread. "Crop Update" is sent mostly by e-mail (it was originally a FAX version newsletter), with just a few receiving it by fax at this time. The newsletter is sent almost weekly during the crop-growing season, and about monthly in the winter months. Topics include what is being observed in northwest Iowa and surrounding areas, what problems to be scouting for at any point in time, and information on what threshold levels need to be used when considering a pesticide treatment. At this point in time, 390 people are receiving the "Crop Update" newsletter - with a survey indicating that this newsletter is forwarded to at least another 140 readers. Approximately one-third are agronomists/seed dealers, etc.; the rest are crop producers. Most are located in northwest Iowa, a few are regional agronomists - some managing agronomists from multiple states.


A survey was included as a part of the last issue in 2003. Forty-two readers responded to the survey. Of the respondents, 39 indicated on their survey that they made better agronomic or pest management decisions (or recommendations) because of information supplied by this newsletter. Examples include insect management pests -specifically soybean aphids, rootworms, western bean cutworms, potato leafhoppers, stored grain pests, and others. Soil fertility, tillage, planter settings and general management hints were other items mentioned.

Some lenders replied that the newsletter kept them up to date on what was happening in the crop production area - one said he tells his borrowers to follow the advice given in the newsletter. A producer noted that over the years this newsletter has added 5 - 10 bushels per year to his soybean yields - and probably more for corn. Some indicated pests they did not treat because of threshold numbers - others noted what they did treat because thresholds were exceeded. Several agronomists noted that this was very valuable in helping them make recommendations to their clients. One agronomist said that parts of this newsletter were shared with agronomists in her company - and used on over one million acres.

One question on the survey asked what effect these changes, made because of information gleaned from this newsletter, had on their operation (or their customer's operations because of agronomist recommendations using this information) in dollars per acre, and on how many acres. The 17 respondents who fully answered this question had answers that ranged from $3/acre to $56/acre, and from 50 acres to 15,000 acres impacted. When multiplying each answer together and adding them up, the total of these 17 responses was $467,520. In addition, three more mentioned a dollar value per acre, but did not list acres. Others noted acres impacted - but did indicate the dollar value per acre (although one noted it was "significant"). And two more just noted that this information was used on thousands of acres.

It seems that timely use of e-mail aids in the rapid distribution of research-based decision-making information. This newsletter will continue, because it has great impact on decision-making in northwest Iowa.

Page last updated: July 9, 2006
Page maintained by Linda Schultz, lschultz@iastate.edu