Each year, the Missouri Strip Trial Program gets input from farmers. John Lory, a University of Missouri Extension agronomist who works on the program, says the goal is to find out what farmers want to know from these tests.
“We work with a farmer panel to prioritize our trial options every year,” he says.
The trial program is a group effort for MU, the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council and the Missouri Corn Merchandising Council.
It’s designed to help farmers and crop advisors compare different crop management strategies. The goal is a low-cost, low-risk setting, with the trials taking place on working farms around the state. Last year, there were test sites in 24 counties across the state.
This year will be the fourth year of the program, and Lory says cover crops are a key topic.
“Since the program began, there’s always been a strong interest in cover crops,” he says.
Some of the cover crop trials look at yields following different cover crops, nitrogen response in corn following different cover crops and termination dates.
“A lot of people are used to working with cover crops ahead of soybeans,” Lory says. “As we look at cover crops ahead of corn, there’s been a lot more challenges.”
He says these include yield reductions, although this is not always the case. Lory says in half of the trials with cereal rye, they don’t see any yield reduction for corn.
“People sometimes look at the glass as half empty,” he says. “Our trials have documented the glass is also half full.”
The work with cover crops ties into the program’s origins of focusing on reducing erosion and protecting the environment.
“Cover crops has been a core value, and that’s because of that environmental focus,” Lory says.
Plant protection is another key part of the trials program. MU Extension plant pathologist Kaitlyn Bissonnette helps coordinate the crop protection trials, including evaluating the impacts of fungicide applications to soybeans at R3 and different seed treatments on soybeans.
“We’re testing different management practices to see how they stand up over time,” she says.
Bissonnette says the strip trial programs can be ongoing, so farmers can learn how different strategies work over multiple years. For example, last year showed how practices work in very dry years.
“We got a good idea how foliar fungicides work in a dry year,” she says. “In the coming year, hopefully we’ll be able to see the impacts of applying fungicide in a more normal season.”
In addition to foliar fungicides, producers have a lot of seed treatment options before they even put seed in the ground, and Bissonnette says the seed treatment trials can help them understand their options better.
“It makes it a lot easier to see how each management practice works in an actual farming operation,” she says. “It’s exceptionally valuable to have farmers be able to see how they work in their own field.”
Lory says other states around Missouri, including Iowa, have had successful strip trial programs.
“We felt like Missouri would benefit from such a program,” he says.
The program gathers more information from year to year after launching in 2016, and Lory says researchers traveled around the state over the winter sharing trial results now that the program has three years of research available.
“Now that we have three years under our belt, we’re really focusing on that public outreach component,” he says.
Go to striptrial.missouri.edu for more information on the program and trial results.