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Midplains Ag Featured in Nebraska Farmer

On-farm network helps farmers test theories

May 1, 2015
   |   
Curt Arens
   |   
Nebraska Farmer

Rich Uhrenholdt and Ryan Hemenway from Elgin wanted to test foliar micronutrient applications on their corn this past year. As part of a group of 49 farmer-cooperators enrolled in the University of Nebraska On-Farm Research Network, they gained insight from Nebraska Extension researchers about how to conduct their own trials and test the concept on their farm.

In four replicated studies conducted by Uhrenholdt and Hemenway, foliar micronutrients were applied in an aerial treatment on July 10, with treated strips compared to a check. The irrigated fields consisted of Thurman and Nora loamy sand in a corn-on-corn situation. Starter fertilizer was also applied with the planter, with subsequent fertilizer treatments through the center pivot.

The foliar fertilizer product applied provided sulfur, boron, manganese and zinc at rates of 1 to 2 quarts per acre. Uhrenholdt and Hemenway on average had mostly economically neutral results, but at least one of the replications showed promise. Leaf samples were collected from treated and untreated strips one month after application to be analyzed for nutrient concentration. Harvest yield data was collected from their combine yield monitor.

“The treatment seemed to pencil out,” Hemenway says. “Our participation in the network showed some positive results and was a good experience.” Now, that same type of philosophy on the use of micronutrients will become standard practice in their fields. “That type of treatment is going to become part of our operation and basic philosophy,” Hemenway says. “We may change how we use those micronutrients and test them in a starter fertilizer.” Subsequent treatments will most likely come through a high-clearance spray rig or center pivot.

ON-FARM RESEARCH

There has been great value for farmers involved in the on-farm research network since it began in 1990.

“Over time, some growers have told me this is one of the best experiences of their farming career,” says Keith Glewen, Nebraska Extension educator. “I know for me it has been an invigorating experience.”

Growers are able to validate in the on-farm trials if a management practice or input performs according to claims. “In short, the benefits come in enhancing profitability through validation and also connecting and sharing with other growers,” Glewen says.

Most commonly, growers identify topics they wish to evaluate in their operation. Nebraska Extension also has a list of topics to test on the farm. “We encourage growers to identify a topic which is important to the long-term vitality or sustainability of their farming operation,” says Glewen. “I would like to think soil, water and energy resources are a part of that equation.”

This past year, foliar micronutrient studies on corn, like the ones conducted by Uhrenholdt and Hemenway, were among the most popular treatments studied within the network. Corn and soybean population studies, as well as nutrient management trials, were also popular.

NOT UP TO PAR

“A significant percentage of the time, yield enhancement products don’t perform according to marketing claims,” says Glewen. “Also, we tend to plant soybeans at too high of a seeding rate, and at the same time, Eastern Nebraska growers need to take a closer look at the planting rates for corn, especially in rainfed situations. Many of the growers I work with are too low on fi nal corn plant populations.”

Growers who are interested in learning more about the network should contact their local Nebraska Extension educator. “We are available from the start in discussing what topic might be important to the sustainability of a farming operation, to drawing up a plan on what to plant or apply and where,” Glewen explains. “If additional data needs to be collected during the growing season, we’ll work with the grower to identify how that might be accomplished. We make sure the grower knows what is to be harvested and what weights need to be captured. The majority of the data collected in the on-farm projects is now captured with yield monitors, although we still have some weights come from grain cart scales or weigh wagons.”

Glewen says they encourage farmers to look at a study over more than one growing season, because no two growing seasons are alike.

Learn more about the Onfarm Research Network by contacting your local Nebraska Extension educator, or by contacting Glewen at 402-624-8030 or kglewen1@unl.edu.

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