drone image of part of the Southeast Research Farm in Crawfordsville

A drone image of part of the Southeast Research Farm in Crawfordsville, Iowa. Iowa State Extension conducts different research projects in the field, with water quality being a focus this year.

New ideas and advances in agriculture can only happen with work in the field.

As Iowa State University Extension Research Farms prepare for 2019, one of the main focuses for the Southeast Research farm in Crawfordsville, Iowa, is taking a look at water quality.

“At our farm, specifically, we have some drainage tile studies and we are actually able to take water samples out of each individual drainage type and test the water for nitrates,” said Cody Schneider, an ag specialist at the Crawfordsville farm. “Then we know what kind of nitrate flow we have going through the tiles.”

He said all the water on the farm drains to a wetland which they also monitor for nutrient removal rates.

Schneider said there are as many as 45-50 different projects running at the farm at a time, helmed by 30 different project leaders.

All of the information goes back to Iowa State Extension and the project managers compile results and generate conclusions.

“They’ll be happening on all the farms, getting started in late spring and through the summer,” said Ed Adcock, who works in Extension’s Agriculture and Life Sciences communication service. “There’s all kinds of research projects scheduled for all the farms.”

The university has 13 farms in different parts of the state, representing the different soil types that are prominent.

Adcock said they will be plenty busy again this year. Along with water quality as a focus, the research farms also have projects looking at corn separation, irrigation and a compost area at the dairy research farm.

“Most of our research comes from the ISU researchers,” Schneider said. “Some companies come to them, but the majority is done based off what researchers in Ames are coming up with.”

There are long-term projects occurring over multiple growing seasons.

Soil health has been a hot topic, Schneider said, as well as pest management and tillage. One test is trying to generate a model for corn and soybean yield projections.

“As we go throughout the season, we can utilize weather data that we collect with automatic weather stations and look at what kind of nitrogen is still available,” he said. “That’s in the beginning stages, but a big deal.”

These research and demonstration farms also host field days and events throughout the year, where they show off what they are seeing in their fields.

Schneider said the Crawfordsville spring field day is tentatively scheduled for June 20, but things can vary based on how the growing season is progressing.

The research farms are limited by the same things every operation has to deal with: the weather.

“We are a little behind on tillage we will have to do this spring,” Schneider said. “The way things are looking, we are really wet now with the snow melting. It’s early to tell what kind of spring we are going to have.”