Research Farm Field Days Kept Growers Informed during 2021

In-person learning returned following a year of cancellations

December 14, 2021, 11:26 am | Mark Honeyman, Jay Harmon

AMES, Iowa – Following a year of cancellations and remote learning, field days at Iowa State University’s research farms were mostly back to normal in 2021.

The return to in-person events was welcomed by educators and farmers alike – allowing for the visual demonstrations and learning opportunities that producers depend upon.

“Face-to-face interaction is an important learning tool and a great way to build our relationships with our stakeholders,” said Jay Harmon, associate dean in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and director for agriculture and natural resources with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. “Seeing the speakers and the crops or animals first-hand in real time is a powerful learning setting.”

field day event.Iowa State operates 15 research farms across the state, featuring crop and livestock agriculture, forestry and horticulture. Field days give farmers and the public a chance to see research projects in progress and talk with the researchers involved in the experiments.

By late spring and into summer, most research farms were preparing to hold drought-related field days, based on the dry spell that plagued most of the state. Despite most of the state being in some form of drought, rainfall came at the right time for many growers, and yields ended up better than expected.

April through September precipitation was below normal at all locations except southeast Iowa. Central and east central Iowa were the driest with Ames about 55 to 60% of normal precipitation and Cedar Rapids and Dubuque at 50% normal for the period. 

“For the most part, yields were still excellent,” said Mark Honeyman, associate dean for operations at Iowa State. “Nevertheless, there were some crop pest issues related to weeds, diseases and insects, and our specialists built those into their presentations accordingly.”

Nearly 10,500 people visited the farms during 2021, about 62% of pre-covid levels. There were 61 events or field days held, or about 70% of pre-covid events.

Topics in 2021 included saturated riparian forest buffers, water quality plots with poultry manure, cover crops, strip tillage, honey production, and the replanting of several hundred apple trees following the derecho storm damage of 2020.

In September, the Western Research Farm held its 75th anniversary, near Castana. The farm is located in the Loess Hills and was founded in 1946, making it the third oldest farm in the Iowa State system.

The two-day event featured a presentation to youth, by Dan Robison, endowed dean’s chair in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State, and a talk by Jay Harmon on the following day.

For more information about the farms, visit the research farm website, or contact Honeyman at 515-294-4621 or

Shareable photo: Iowa State University Extension and Outreach field day in action. 

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