Howard County Experimental Farm

Howard County history starts in 1944.

Howard Co. Experimental Farm located west of Cresco.

In 1944 the Howard County Experiment Association leased a 120 acre tract located 12 miles west of Cresco on Highway 9 to the Agriculture Experiment Station.  Research started in 1945.

The farm was selected to be representative of the Cresco-Lourdes-Clyde soil association areas.  The soils had a higher clay content and had drainage problems.  The original purpose of the Association and the Experiment Station was for research to obtain solutions to local problems.  The center provided facilities for crop variety testing, weed and disease control and pasture utilization.  The long time effects of different soil and crop management practices on yields, soil fertility, soil tilth, erosion control and drainage were studied.  113 business, Extension, farmers and federal agency personnel attended the first field day in June of 1945.  The 1947 annual progress report stated that nearly 1200 people had visited the center the previous season at regular field days or as special groups.  In 1966 only 40 acres were used for research.  The ISU Agriculture Experiment station discontinued research on the farm in 1968 and the final report was issued that year.  A tornado ripped through the center on May 15, 1968 and added finality to the decision to discontinue formal research.  The tornado destroyed crops, machinery, corn cribs, buildings, fences and trees.  Very little was left standing after the tornado passed through and debris from the center were found over 20 miles away.  The same tornado passed through and destroyed a large portion of Charles City and Elma earlier that day.  

Research during the first few years covered a large number of problems.  Sub surface water movement was addressed.   A solution was attempted by using "mole drainage", which consisted of a series of channels formed below the surface by pulling a projectile shaped plug through the ground.   The channels were held only in soils with high clay content.   In other areas the tunnels collapsed.  Other drainage studies were conducted on the farm between 1947 and 1957.  The work was related primarily to tile drainage and groundwater and was supervised by the Agricultural Engineering and Agronomy Departments.   The tile spacing were placed at 84 feet.  There was no significant difference in corn and oats in the drained and undrained areas.  Later research done other locations indicated the tile spacings were still too far apart for adequate crop response.

Farm supervision during the early years changed frequently due to wartime circumstances.  In general, however, Gerald Meldrum and Sy Angstrom supervised the activities at both the Howard County site and the site near Independence.  

The local association rented the farm for the next ten years to the Crestwood FFA of Cresco.  As a result of the 1944 agreement with the State Experiment Station, half of the farm was deeded to the state association and the state sold it in 1985.  The local Experimental Farm Board was restructured as non-profit and agricultural scholarships were established.  Since 1980 the Riceville FFA under the guidance of a local board of directors has conducted research and demonstrations on 62 acres remaining in the local associaiton.

During the last 20 years over $50,000 has been awarded in ag scholarships to over 130 youth in Howard county.  During this time the local experimental board has cooperated with Area Extension Agronomists to conduct meaningful demonstrations for local farmers.  Some of the research was on comparisons of BR and non Bt corn varieties, mycotoxin formation in the Br/non Bt corn varieties, soybean populations and row spacings, nitrogen management in corn, economics of specialty soybeans, and soybean variety demonstrations.  

The local associaton continues to cooperate with the Riceville FFA and the Extension Service with research and demonstraitons on the farm.



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