Agronomic Hub and Spoke Demonstration Project

George Cummins, Crops Field Specialist, Northeast


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 (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; and analyzing, summarizing and disseminating the plot results. The number of demonstrations, cooperators and counties served has increased over time. In 2005, 22 demonstrations were conducted by 14 cooperators in 9 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. 2005 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;  Corn fungicide treatment timing; Compare 2 CRW varieties with different Bt events; N rate following fall and spring applied manure; and deep-banding compost in a corn/ soybean rotation. 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. This information is widely shared as the booklet, in crop newsletters and media pieces and to add local experience to educational programs conducted by the Crop Specialists involved.
a.  All cooperators indicated an interest in continuing; stressed the need for multi-year data and identified additional topics for future Hub and Spoke Research Projects. This has been a very beneficial learning experience. I appreciate being part of it.
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.
c.  The economic analysis of on-farm trials is a welcome addition and helpful in evaluating new technologies and company sales information/claims. The 2005 trials showed limited yield increase and a negative economic response to soybean fungicide/ insecticide ($8-$10/acre) seed treatments; limited yield response that barely covered the cost of soybean fungicide ($2-$2.50/acre) seed treatments; Significant varietal differences in yield and economic response to foliar fungicide and insecticide (aphid mgt.) applications; and significant differences in yield response to timing of foliar fungicide applications to corn and soybeans.   
d.  Last year we set out a manure X N rate study. The LSNT indicated and the final yield data confirmed that the extra $18.90/ acre costs for sidedressed N were unnecessary. This year the sidedressed N cost will be $26.70. My experience as a cooperator will certainly influence my nutrient management decisions.
e.  As a Hub and Spokes cooperator, I have a greater appreciation of the value of      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 proposed facilities improvements at the Nashua Research Farm.
f.  I qualified for Tier III in the Conservation Security Program ($45,000/ year for 10 years) because I adopted many of the practices introduced as a cooperator with ISU on-farm demonstrations.
g.  Premiums offered for identity-preserved soybean varieties with special properties attract interest. When one compares the yield of these specialty varieties with popular commercial varieties and include the extra storage and handling requirements, there is no value-added advantage to me, the producer. I use the information from the local variety trials to critically evaluate production contract proposals.

May 4, 2006
103 - Nutrient Management and 142 - Integrated Crop and Pest Management

Page last updated: July 9, 2006
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