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Changes are coming to the program in 2023, including adding a popcorn competition.

February 14, 2023

3 Min Read
corn plants
EXPANDING: Among other changes to the UNL-TAPS program this year, a new sprinkler corn competition will expand into Colorado. Curt Arens

by Krystle Rhoades

In its seventh year, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Testing Ag Performance Solutions program will make some modifications and see more growth in a number of competitions and locations in 2023.

The largest development is the expansion of TAPS into Colorado, where a new competition will take place this year at Colorado State University. The inaugural sprinkler corn competition will be hosted at CSU’s Agricultural Research, Development and Education Center applied farm research facility located near Fort Collins, Colo.

Several former UNL-TAPS participants from Nebraska and Colorado have signed on to support this new program’s development and launch, including intent to compete.

Groundwork for this program expansion in Colorado was made possible in part by a multistate Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Innovation Grant, as well as a state-level grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

“We are very excited to have this opportunity to learn and engage with producers, technology providers and others,” said Amy Kremen, associate director of the Irrigation Innovation Consortium, which is hosted at CSU.

To get involved — as a participant, sponsor or otherwise — contact IIC Director Tim Martin.

Adding popcorn

New in Nebraska this year, the offerings will include a sprinkler irrigated popcorn competition — in addition to the sprinkler corn, subsurface drip irrigated (SDI) corn and sorghum competitions that have been hosted previously.

The popcorn competition will be small, with 12 teams the first year. Popcorn plots will be planted under the Zimmatic pivot at the West Central Research, Extension and Education Center (WCREEC) in North Platte, Neb.


Participants will decide on their hybrid, planting population, irrigation and nitrogen amounts and timing, insecticide and fungicide management, crop insurance, and marketing. This new competition is made possible by a partnership with Zangger Popcorn Hybrids, based in North Loup, Neb.

“We are excited to learn more about irrigation and nitrogen management in the growing of popcorn more sustainably,” says Chuck Burr, Water and Integrated Cropping Systems specialist and TAPS team member.

Other moves

The sorghum competition, now in its sixth year, will change location, moving to the Henry J. Stumpf International Wheat Center near Grant, Neb. Participants will still be responsible for managing dryland and irrigated plots in this competition.

“Grant is an area more suited to growing sorghum, so we think it is a better fit for the plots and participants,” Burr says.

Lastly, for the flagship sprinkler corn competition, competitors will have a new aspect with the addition of cover crops. Although this may not change the management decisions that corn participants have made in the competition the past six years, it may change the way participants manage those decisions.

The decisions sprinkler corn competitors have to determine for their plots include crop insurance, hybrid, seeding rate, nitrogen and irrigation timing and amounts, and grain marketing.

“We are excited to incorporate cover crops within the sprinkler irrigated corn competition,” says Daran Rudnick, irrigation management associate professor and TAPS team member. “There has been growing interest of how to incorporate cover crops and, more importantly, how do we think about managing our water and nitrogen when cover crops are integrated into our corn and soybean rotation, so this competition will let us dive into what practices are leading to efficient and profitable crop production.”

If you or someone you know want to participate in the TAPS program in 2023, visit the TAPS website to register. Spots are limited because of the field sizes, so make sure to register soon if you want to participate this year.

Rhoades is the TAPS program coordinator.

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