One of the best ways Iowa State University can help corn and soybean growers is to strengthen partnerships with private-sector agribusinesses. That’s the theory behind the Corn and Soybean Initiative. Since late 2004, the initiative has been connecting with agribusinesses, retailers, commodity organizations, farm media and others to reach growers with Iowa State research, extension and educational resources.
The Corn and Soybean Initiative provides science-based crop production information to Iowa corn and soybean growers to increase their productivity and global competitiveness while also conserving the environment, said Greg Tylka, ISU Extension's coordinator of the initiative.
Currently the initiative includes 60 agribusiness partners with 341 retail outlets serving growers in 313 Iowa communities, Tylka said. Ten organizational and media partners also are involved.
In 2007 and 2008, ISU Extension faculty led seven campus-coordinated, multi-regional, on-farm research projects. In addition, 11 ISU Extension field agronomists directed 83 research and demonstration projects.
ISU and the agribusiness partners contribute to the finances and logistics in the research and demonstrations, developing protocols, identifying fields for the work and organizing educational events at the sites of the projects, Tylka explained.
“All of the ISU Extension field agronomists serve as partnership managers for the various initiative partners and work closely with the agribusinesses to develop research and education programs on locally relevant issues in collaboration with their local agribusiness partners,” he said.
For example, Linn Cooperative and ISU conducted on-farm research and demonstration plots to highlight different sources, timings and rates of nitrogen fertilizer, said ISU Extension field agronomist Jim Fawcett.
The excess rains in spring 2008 led to large losses of nitrogen in farm fields and in the plots, Fawcett said. “This resulted in very large differences in corn yields based on the timing and rate of nitrogen application, resulting in a unique teaching moment on the benefits of waiting until spring to apply nitrogen.”
Local growers who attended the plot tour could see for themselves the benefits of waiting until spring or later to apply nitrogen or to use a nitrification inhibitor in the fall to reduce losses. Hundreds of other growers and agronomists learned about the results at ISU Extension educational sessions and could use the information to make decisions for the 2009 growing season.