Growers cooperating with the Iowa Soybean Association's On-Farm Network conducted a number of evaluations in their fields across the state in 2005.
Growers who collect more data will be the ones to benefit from it the most, says Tracy Blackmer, director of research for the ISA. In the 2005 season, over 1,000 evaluations were made just on nitrogen management alone in the state of Iowa.
"For 20 years, Iowa State University research has shown that yield-goal based recommendations do not work. Only recently are these changes being implemented on a broad basis," he notes. "Imagine how much money you could have saved by improving your nitrogen management by 30 pounds of N per acre or 50 pounds of N per acre over the last 20 years. With reports of nitrogen reaching as high as $400 to $500 per ton this year, it should get everyone's attention."
Farmers paying big bills this fall
How can you find results of 2005 trials? "Click on our Web site isafarmnet.com," says Blackmer. "We've posted the results we have for the stalk nitrate test. So people can look as a whole across the state. They can also click on their own county and see how many stalk samples were collected from there as well as how many tested low, how many were optimal and how many tested high."
So if you just want to see in your county or the surrounding county area, you can. And it's not just nitrogen. You can find information about trials on other topics too.
Especially on the lime application, a lot of farmers have some pretty large lime bills this year and there aren't very many people who've even seen a lime trial. "We are hearing from a lot of farmers," says Blackmer. "They want to see more data to know their return on investment. They want to know if the soils are really going to build up the way they think they are, when they write those checks."
How do you use this information?
How do producers use this data when they look at it? "I think a lot of farmers are applying nitrogen each year and wondering how much of it they lose. They want to know if their corn had enough nitrogen. With farmers paying record high prices for nitrogen fertilizer this fall, you look at the field and say if we're wet and we're still on high end of things, clearly you wouldn't want to put as much on," he says.
On the other hand, if your situation is pretty dry and the stalk nitrate test shows a low concentration, maybe you were hurting yourself. Maybe it wasn't an effective way of putting the N on or maybe you need to increase the rate per acre.
Is it too late to participate in the On-Farm Network trials for next year? No, says Blackmer. "Farmers who are putting out their trials right now have yield monitors so they can turn around and collect the yield data. This is the perfect time to put out some strips in the field. You can get protocols to do that by looking on our Web site. Or call our office to sign up for it."