By Krystle Rhoades
The Testing Ag Performance Solutions program has been awarded an $850,000 Conservation Innovation Grant from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service. TAPS was one of 19 Conservation Innovation Grant projects awarded this year.
TAPS is an innovative program developed in 2017 by University of Nebraska–Lincoln research and Extension specialists. The program facilitates a number of interactive, real-life farm management competitions that bring together Husker scientists, Extension professionals, producers, industry leaders, agriculture students, government regulators, agency personnel and others.
Participants are able to test agricultural strategies and technologies during the competition. Afterward, they are able to access data from the competitions.
"TAPS is a highly interactive farm management competition that directly engages stakeholders in finding efficient and profitable ways to manage crop production," says Daran Rudnick, TAPS team member and Nebraska Extension irrigation management specialist.
Since the launch of TAPS at the West Central Research and Extension Center in North Platte, Neb., the program has expanded to include subsurface drip-irrigated corn and sprinkler-irrigated sorghum competitions, in addition to the sprinkler-irrigated corn competition.
In 2019, a new TAPS program in cooperation with Oklahoma State University hosted its first sprinkler-irrigated corn competition at OSU's McCaull Research and Demonstration Farm near Eva, Okla.
The TAPS team will use the grant funding over the next three years to support ongoing development of TAPS competitions in Nebraska and Oklahoma, while expanding knowledge sharing and engagement by producers, Extension educators, technology companies and service providers in other states — including Colorado and Kansas.
"The genius of the TAPS program is the fact that most of the time, it's not Extension or companies evaluating products and telling farmers about them; it's farmers engaged in evaluation," says Jason Warren, director of the OSU TAPS program. "If something doesn't work right, they see it. Then we can work with service providers to make it better."
The Conservation Innovation Grant program is funding the future of agriculture and conservation through grants to organizations and universities that are developing the next generation of tools and technologies to boost conservation on agricultural lands.
"We are funding innovation," says Matthew Lohr, NRCS chief. "These projects are tackling some of our most critical challenges head-on, and will result in new science-based tools for our toolbox and cutting-edge systems we can use to help farmers and ranchers improve the health of their operations and protect our natural resources for the future."
Learn more about the TAPS program at taps.unl.edu.
Rhoades is TAPS program manager at the West Central Research and Extension Center.