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Purdue Agronomists Seek Collaborators For On-Farm Trials

By Jennifer Stewart


Two Purdue Extension agronomists are seeking farmers to collaborate in on-farm, field-scale research trials to study corn plant populations and nitrogen management.

Corn specialist Bob Nielsen and soil fertility specialist Jim Camberato have been studying corn yield response to nitrogen fertilizer in field-scale trials for 8 years, and plant populations for 13. Between the two projects, they have accumulated a database of results from about 275 such trials - the majority of which have been conducted in collaboration with growers on their fields, using their equipment.

"Even though we have a large database of trial results, we believe there is more to be learned from continuing these field-scale trials," Nielsen said. "Yield responses to both of these crop inputs are often influenced by growing conditions and conducting more trials helps us sample a wider set of growing conditions."

While both studies need more trials in general, the nitrogen management research especially needs more sandy (irrigated or non-irrigated) trial sites.

The size of on-farm trials tends to range from 30 to 80 acres, with some as large as 200 acres. Nielsen said fields do not need to be uniform and that growing condition variability actually helps researchers evaluate nitrogen rates and plant populations in a more realistic environment.

Nielsen and Camberato plan and design the trials and provide the information to collaborators. They will provide plot flags when necessary and will complete all data analysis. Local Purdue Extension educators also will play an active role in the trials.

In addition to providing useful data for farmers statewide, the trials can offer extra benefit to a collaborator's bottom line.

"On-farm research is a great way to evaluate the merits of agronomic practices on growers' own farms, under their own conditions and management practices," Nielsen said. "We are convinced that growers can accurately identify the ballpark optimum nitrogen rates and plant populations for their farming conditions after collaborating with us for two or three years."

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