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Here are two opportunities to compare practices and learn about what works on your farm.

Tom Bechman 1, Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

April 5, 2016

3 Min Read

Do you ever wonder if you should be applying nitrogen in different ways or at different times than you do now? Or are you thinking that maybe you could cut back on your corn seeding rate or soybean population and increase your bottom line?


You can look online or read information from universities and seed companies, but you may get opinions all over the board. For example, we recently carried information from Purdue University saying that researchers aren’t finding differences in yield based on whether N is applied at sidedressing in one shot, or is applied in split applications. Yet an independent source from Ohio recently sent out information showing a big payback for split-applications last year. Who is right? Isn’t what really matters is what works on your farm over time?

Here are two opportunities to begin testing these kinds of practices, with outside help to make sure the tests are accurate:

1. Purdue on-farm testing opportunities

Several agronomists at Purdue look for farmers who are willing to work with them in on-farm, field-size trials on various topics. Bob Nielsen, Purdue Extension corn specialist and Jim Camberato, Extension soil fertility specialist, have been doing on-farm trials for several years to test things such as nitrogen rates for corn and nitrogen timing. Other Extension personnel looking for on-farm cooperators are Kiersten Wise, a plant pathologist who likes to test fungicide application efficacy and timing, and Shaun Casteel, soybean specialist, who tests seeding rates and other factors.

“It’s easier to do today with yield monitors and precision-farming application equipment,” Nielsen has stated at field days before. “We believe we get better information working in on-farm, large-scale plots for the type of things we’re testing. “  

If you would like more information about being a cooperator, email Nielsen at: [email protected], or contact your county Extension educator.

2 ways you can get involved in on-farm testing this year

LEARN AND SHARE: Ken Simpson, a plot cooperator with Purdue, worked with Shelby County Extension ag educator Scott Gabbard to host a field day last fall in his trial field. Here, Kiersten Wise discussed fungicide application timing.

2. INfield Advantage advanced level testing program

This program is offered through the Indiana State Department of Agriculture. Meg Leader is in charge of the program. Most people are in a basic level that does not involve plot work, but there are some farmers who take advantage of the advanced level to compare different practices.

“The advanced level of the program allows the grower to use our tools to do on-farm research focused on a management question,” Leader says. “We refer to it as Replicated Strip Trial. For RST fields, we require that the grower has a GPS-equipped yield monitor and is willing to download and share yield data so our analyst can do a statistical analysis. RST fields have a more extensive registration form where the different strip treatments can be described.

Traditionally, RST has compared different nitrogen rates, Leader notes. “In 2015 we had N strip trials comparing different timings as well as the impact of different cover crops in the following crop and interseeded into this year’s crop,” she explains. “Looking ahead, I expect to start including cover crop trials in beans and wheat as well as some population studies.”

To learn about INField Advantage, visit

2 ways you can get involved in on-farm testing this year

TRY, AND LEARN: What makes INfield Advantage unique, Leader says, is that a farmer is part of a group, and the group has a winter meeting to share and discuss results. (Photo courtesy of Meg Leader)

About the Author(s)

Tom Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

Tom Bechman is an important cog in the Farm Progress machinery. In addition to serving as editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer, Tom is nationally known for his coverage of Midwest agronomy, conservation, no-till farming, farm management, farm safety, high-tech farming and personal property tax relief. His byline appears monthly in many of the 18 state and regional farm magazines published by Farm Progress.

"I consider it my responsibility and opportunity as a farm magazine editor to supply useful information that will help today's farm families survive and thrive," the veteran editor says.

Tom graduated from Whiteland (Ind.) High School, earned his B.S. in animal science and agricultural education from Purdue University in 1975 and an M.S. in dairy nutrition two years later. He first joined the magazine as a field editor in 1981 after four years as a vocational agriculture teacher.

Tom enjoys interacting with farm families, university specialists and industry leaders, gathering and sifting through loads of information available in agriculture today. "Whenever I find a new idea or a new thought that could either improve someone's life or their income, I consider it a personal challenge to discover how to present it in the most useful form, " he says.

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