Taking part in strip trials may take a little extra time, but the results are worth it, according to Bedford, Iowa, farmer Aimee Bissell.
“I personally think it’s an amazing opportunity,” Bissell said. “I don’t know why everybody doesn’t do it.”
Bissell has worked with the Iowa Soybean Association for a few years and said taking part in those trials has allowed her to see how different products work on her fields.
“It’s not like they tell you ‘Hey, we want you to do this strip trial.’ You get to pick what fits your operation,” she said. “A lot of times it’s something we were already thinking about and they just help us with the process when it comes to the analytics of it.”
Scott Nelson, director of agronomy with the Iowa Soybean Association, said any tests they do have the ultimate goal of improving profitability. He said some of the importance of doing field trials in Iowa is to have better regional test results, as opposed to multi-state or national averages.
“If you put one foot in hot water and one in cold, on average you are warm,” Nelson said. “There’s a lot of variation in some of the guidance we have for management practices, and there’s areas that they’re maybe not appropriate. We try to help farmers find the most appropriate practices for profitability within their local geographies.”
Bissell said the ISA has a list of trials they are looking to conduct, but they are open to suggestions. She said she brought a product to them — molybdenum.
“One of the first studies that we did with them, we actually brought it to them as a product,” she said. “It is actually found in the soil, but they weren’t finding very high amounts in southwest Iowa. If you fully applied this, would it increase your yield? We found it had a really good yield response on corn, and on soybeans, really didn’t.”
Bissell said any extra cost for doing the trials depends on what trials are being done on the field. Seeding rate trials could have a decrease in costs if you are using a lower seed rate, but cost more if it’s higher. She said they are doing a fungicide study this year and the fungicide will be provided.
This year, Nelson said ISA is running 25 trials looking at various seeding rates for soybeans in an effort to find a better answer for what the best average seeding rate is. While they don’t use checkoff dollars on it, they are looking at conservation practices with corn and cover crops, as he said they’ve noticed there can sometimes be limited yields in years where corn follows the cover crops.
Nelson also highlighted a soil organic matter sensor that measures soil matter across a field, which they are using in some of their tests.
The organization is also doing tests on how adding azospirillum, a bacteria that could synergize with bradyrhizobium in soybeans, could help farmers hit a “newer yield level” in soybean production.
Nelson said field trials are “the key to competitive farming” in the future.