ISU engages farmers in field scale comparisons and provide up to date information for corn and soybean producers

Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension
Iowa State University

Title of Success Story

ISU engages farmers in field scale comparisons and provide up to date information for corn and soybean producers.

Public Value (now or future)
(Impact:  Who benefits beyond participants and how?  What conditions changed?)

Iowa State University has an outstanding network of outlying research farms that conduct extensive amounts of crop production research.  These locations also hold annual field days to provide information to agribusinesses and farmers; however, the adoption rate or production management integration can be a very slow or a nonexistent process.  The cooperation of ISU Research Farms, ISU Extension and Outreach and the Northwest Iowa Experimental Association formed in 2006, implemented a new project known as the Northwest Iowa On-Farm Research Project, or currently now known as ISU F.A.R.M.  F.A.R.M. is an acronym for Farmer Assisted Research and Management.  The goal of this project is to take projects from the research farm and have cooperating farmers replicate these studies on a field scale basis. This program has allowed farmers to teach farmers about research results, basic statistical analysis, and valid field comparisons.  The group of 20+ farmers we have cooperated with, over the past six years, has found that farmers teaching farmers have a strong impact of credibility. Through this experience farmer cooperators felt more comfortable with these comparisons seeing them first hand on their own fields compared to a small plot 50 miles away.  Results from over 400+ trials in the last six years have yielded the same or similar results at the research farm.  When results between the research farm and field scale trials are similar, small plot research becomes a more dependable source of information.  Simply put, by changing the dynamics of the plot size and comparing similar variables, ISU is able to engage producers on a small plot and field scale trial.
Farmers’ selling to farmers is a very powerful tool.  The information we collect is shared with throughout northwest Iowa and several parts of the state of Iowa.  Many of the field comparisons we have done have benefitted farmers not cooperating in our trials because quite often the management style is similar, but the curiosity of “does that work” is greater. 

(Why is it important to address this issue with education?  What are the desired changes?)

ISU is a leading educational institution and it is part of Extension’s role to educate with research.  We have learned that teaching through experience gains the most benefit.  Educating and allowing the farmers to experience firsthand builds trust and reliability in a “new” practice.  Most of the farmers that we have worked with did not have any research background.  Some had participated in doing field trials with industry or by themselves, but too often the variables in the comparisons outweighed the value of the results.  Developing a meaningful relationship, building trust, and educating farmers with ISU research has been the core foundation of this project.  Throughout each trial, we sit down with these cooperators and design a project that serves their interest or happens to be the hot production topic of the season.  We want to ensure that we are teaching the farmer to replicate, randomize, and above all eliminate any variables that could lead to false conclusions.  Long-term goals with this project are to help these (and other) producers become more environmentally conscious and sustainable.  For example, small plot research in NW Iowa would indicate that no-tilling soybeans is a feasible management practice; however, there are several bumps in the road that some producers won’t even consider it.  Having a few producers try no-tilling soybeans, successfully, creates curiosity to those farmers that may be on the fence, or at least, give it a second look.

(Outputs: activities, numbers reached, publications, products)

Data that is not shared is not useful, nor effective.    We have been very successful in growing recognition in northwest Iowa for this program.  Each year a booklet has been printed to share this information with other growers in Northwest Iowa.   Due to a limited printing budget we have only been able to print 130-150 copies of the booklet and have relied heavily upon the website to relay information.   On an annual basis, this information is presented to approximately 3,000 growers in northwest and west central Iowa through Extension and Outreach workshops, PAT training, and various agribusiness meetings.  We also host an annual field day with a participating cooperator to help address any questions that may be relevant to the growing season.  These field days have attracted up to 130 attendees.

RESULTS (Outcomes:  specific changes that occurred in Learning, Actions, Conditions; how outcomes were measured)

Cooperating farmers have been surveyed (via PowerPoint clickers) to identify how their crop production management decisions have changed since being a part of the ISU FARM project.  Nearly 95% of those surveyed had decreased their soybean seeding rate by 15% because of the results of their own and corresponding trials from other producers.  Many farmers who participated in this type of trial were very concerned with lowering their seeding rate to125, 000 seeds/acre.   Research done at several outlying research farms had shown no statistical difference in yields, but this type of information was not enough to convince these producers until they had experienced it first hand. 

Desired Changes


Each of the farmers that have cooperated with us in this project has gained a stronger understanding of the value of conducting an on farm field trial.  This creates the basic foundation of quality research and education.  Through this relationship building and educational experience we have been able to strengthen the farmer credibility to small plot research and help put ISU in the driver’s seat for up to date information for producers.  It is our goal to implement sustainable practices in production agriculture in a comfortable pace for farmers to adopt.  Such practices include: no-till or reduced tillage systems, reduced dependence on insecticides, and better use of IPM (integrated pest management) strategies.

Extension Lead(s)
(name, position, counties served, contact information)

Josh Sievers, Ag Specialist, Sioux, Lyon, Osceola, O’Brien 712.539.2510,
Joel DeJong, Extension Field Agronomist, Sioux, Lyon, Osceola, O’Brien, Cherokee, Plymouth, Woodbury, Ida, Monona, Crawford,

Your Position

­­­­­_x_Field                                        _____Campus                         _____Both

POW # and Team

 ­­­­­__x_100 Corn and Soybean Production and Protection
­­­­­_____ 110 Dairy
­­­­­_____ 120 Farm and Business Management
­­­­­_____ 130 Horticulture: Commercial and Consumer
­­­­­_____ 140 Iowa Beef Center
­­­­­_____ 150 Iowa Pork Industry Center
­­­­­_____ 160 Natural Resources and Stewardship

ANR Priority (select all that apply)

­­­­­__x__Global Food Security and Hunger
­­­­­_____Regional Food Systems
­­­­­__x_Natural Resources & Environmental Stewardship
­­­­­_____Food Safety
­­­­­_____Sustainable Energy – Biofuels & Biobased Products
­­­­­_____Climate Change

Knowledge Areas: (USDA categories)


Continuing Story

__x_ No                _____  Yes (If continuing, what story?)

Major Partners or Collaborators

Sievers, DeJong

Where story took place
(Region, campus, multi-regional)

Northwest Iowa

Fiscal Year


Multi-state or Integrated (Ext + Research)


Funding Source



Corn, soybean, research




Page last updated: March 19, 2012
Page maintained by Julie Honeick,