Farmers can stop by anytime. "Our farmers will just drive out and take a look at the plot," Peterson says. "As long as people come in and are respectful, we encourage people to come in and take a look."
Wide variety of factors
One of the things farmers can see is how growth is affected by northeast Kansas's finer clay soil, compared to the silt loam closer to the Wamego plot. "We can truly give the growers that have clay soil types a taste of what products work for them," Peterson says. "There are hybrids out there that have a more aggressive, penetrating root profile, that explore clay soils much better. Those genetics are more adapted to be tough enough to grow into those tougher clays."
Kansas itself has a vast difference in soil and climate affecting yield across the state. "[In 2011] we had the highest yielding and the lowest yielding Answer Plot in our whole system just within our state."
Other factors include nutrient application, plant population, row spacing, seed variety and planting depths. "We really try to dig into what makes those plants perform to the highest standard." For demo and research acres, varieties of CROPLAN are used, along with varieties of each of the partners working with WinField, including Asgrow, Dekalb (Monsanto), Mycogen (Dow), and NK (Syngenta). "We're really trying to understand how the products work and where they fit."
Four plant populations are used. With planters specially made for research, crews can plant in variable populations on the fly. The Hiawatha plot's populations vary from 24,000, 30,000, 36,000 and 42,000. "Growers can see how a specific population affects stalk growth and root mass," Peterson says. "In most cases, we don't see a detriment to yield pushing population." Of course, growers still need to follow up with proper nutrient application. "It's a ripple effect of the things you've got to think about."