Since the corn and soybeans were planted, several of our fields have sported a series of pretty-colored flags to mark not one, not two, but five different test plots. All are part of our university’s On-Farm Research Network.

Call him a glutton for punishment by recordkeeping, but since 2016 Hubby has been participating in trials designed to help Extension specialists with research on everything from seeding populations to micronutrients to testing strip-tillage in soybeans. We’ve also done wide and narrow-row soybeans and tested a couple of biologics.

This year’s plots include two down-pressure studies in conjunction with Ag Leader technology. These two will study both down pressure and planting speed on corn.

We added manganese to our starter fertilizer on corn for a third study. A fourth will look at switching our 10-34-0 phosphorus fertilizer to a more readily available phosphorus fertilizer. The last test plot is our second year of a soybean population study.

These were set up with the help of our local Extension crop specialist. While there is a certain amount of work involved for the producer, the specialists do the bulk of the statistical analysis. They set it up so it can be analyzed and they do the statistical analysis after harvest.

The specialists do yeoman’s work gathering the data that make these studies relevant for producer use. For example, after the corn started to emerge, our specialist came every day for two weeks to count daily plant emergence.

For our soybean study last year, the specialists were out every week all summer to check on those plants. We simply don’t have the time or the expertise to statistically analyze all the information.

While it takes more time during planting because these are replicated strips, the results can be statistically relevant. For us, the biggest advantage of working with the University is we can obtain more accurate results that we can utilize in our operation.

Farmers get to choose what they want to study, so if there is something you’d like to investigate or set up on your operation, don’t hesitate to contact your local Extension office and they can put you in touch with the correct crop specialist.

An advantage to the University is they get more studies done for less money by using cooperating producers. Some studies are really outside the box, but they provide a foundation for new learning and guiding the focus of other related studies.

Making decisions based on these studies helps not only us, but those who are willing to take the time to read about the research. Nebraska’s On-Farm Research program went statewide in 2012. In 2019 alone, farmers across the state participated in 100 different studies throughout the network.

During the past eight years, the results of all this research have been published and are available online at www.cropwatch.unl.edu. During the 2020 growing season, Nebraska Extension has also offered “Streaming On-Farm Research,” a series of short, live webinars for farmers and ag professionals.

These are weekly 30-minute sessions aired Tuesday evenings at 7 p.m. They feature 15 minutes of presentation and 15 minutes of questions and answers. Each covers recent on-farm research data on topics relevant to current growing season activities.

Some of the studies have been spread across multiple years and provide valuable information to guide producer management decisions. Best of all, the information gathered each year is published in an annual report and then uploaded to the internet where it is searchable by crop, by practice or other variables.

So if you want to see our pretty flags, you’d better hurry. Recent warm weather and rains have our corn and soybeans shooting up rapidly and soon the growing crop will cover them up. The next time we’ll see them is at harvest when we will combine the various strips and gather the final data for analysis.

Freelance journalist Barb Bierman Batie grew up near Battle Creek, Nebraska, and now farms row crops with her Platte Valley Farmer, Don Batie, northeast of Lexington. She has written for local, state, regional and international publications and joined the Midwest Messenger crew in 2010. She can be reached at editorial@midwestmessenger.com.

Barb is a freelance journalist who grew up near Battle Creek, Nebraska, and now farms row crops with her Platte Valley Farmer, Don Batie, northeast of Lexington. She can be reached at editorial@midwestmessenger.com.