MANKATO, Minn. – For the past four years, the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) has been funding farmer-run research projects. This year, at the 2020 Minnesota Ag Expo 2020, five farmers will be present to share what they did as part of their research project and what they learned.
“We are looking for innovative ideas from farmers on how to better their operations,” said Paul Meints, research director with MCGA. “For the first three years, we were singly about improving nitrogen efficiency, specifically towards reducing loss through ground and surface water.”
As the innovation program grew and developed, the research parameters expanded to include more areas that could improve farm efficiency and productivity.
There are two levels of funding that farmers can qualify for with their research project. The first level is a one-year trial with a grant maximum of $7,000.
“Then we expanded it to include replicated trials, striving to do something that would university-level equitable so that we could get publishable data,” Meints said. “Those three-year trial projects required trained researchers to help with statistical design, lay out the plots and analyze data.”
The long-term research programs come with annual grant maximum of $30,000, a total of $90,000.
This coming Minnesota Ag Expo will be the first year that the long-term data trials will be presented, as the first projects are just finishing up this year.
The farmers will be attending the Minnesota Ag Expo on the first day, Jan. 22. Starting at 10 a.m., on the trade show floor, the farmers will be available to discuss their research projects and results with attendees. They will have a summary of their research on display and farmer attendees can discuss one-on-one with them to learn more about their projects.
“One of the farmers is Sam Peterson, who farms in Dakota and Rice County,” he said. “His project is titled “Economic Benefits of Variable Rate Nitrogen Programming.”
Peterson used different tools and soil data to vary the rates of nitrogen application. The goal would be to reduce nitrogen applications, applying it in a more targeted approach, but without losing yield.
“More importantly to us, does that help him maintain crop production while reducing excess, reducing loss to ground and surface water,” he said.
The next farmer expected at the Minnesota Ag Expo is a west-central Minnesota corn grower that installed a subsurface drip irrigation system on a 58-acre field. He then spoon-fed nitrogen to the crop via the irrigation system throughout the growing season, using regular tissue testing, every other week, to determine the application rates.
“That is a very diverse field. Some of it is very sandy, and on dry years, produces nothing,” Meints said. “Some of the soil is very productive.”
The final three-year project being presented is research done by a Martin County farmer. That research focuses on manure applications and testing the nutrient levels of the manure as it changes in the storage pit.
Nitrogen levels will very in a manure pit, and as the manure is pumped, each tank can have a different amount of nitrogen applied to the field. This research looks at testing each tank of manure and applying that manure based off the nitrogen amount – precision application of manure.
The last two farmers presenting this year’s Minnesota Ag Expo are part of the one-year trial programs, but have conducted their research for the last two years. Even though they are not part of the replicated trial program, they are still working on replicating their research.
“One of them is a project titled “Cover Crop’s Ability to Suppress Weeds and Reduce Chemical Inputs.” he said. “Then, the fifth project is over on the eastern side of the state, along the Mississippi river counties – “Eliminating Soil Erosion Using a Three-Crop Rotation and Extensive Cover Crops.”
This farmer says hilly ground and soil erosion is a major concern for him. He added cereal rye to his corn-soybean crop rotation, using it as a cover crop, as well as an additional harvestable crop.
The goal of the MCGA innovation grants are to foster farmer-driven research and have those farmers share their experiences with other growers. The 2020 Minnesota Ag Expo will be an opportunity for growers to interact and learn what worked and didn’t work in these trials.
“All of the results of our research programs are also posted live on our website, mncorn.org, under the research tab,” Meints said. “Progress reports and final reports on all of our research is in there and active all the time.”
Growers can go to the website to review the research being conducted by MCGA, look at the areas of focus and the results. Doing so and talking with the researchers at the Minnesota Ag Expo might inspire a new research project from a new grower.