Mark your calendar, if you're interested in learning more about using precision farming methods to make better crop management decisions. February 21, 2007 is the date scheduled for the Iowa Soybean Association's annual On-Farm Research and Nitrogen Conference. It'll be held at the Scheman Building on the ISU campus in Ames.
Tracy Blackmer is director of research for ISA and coordinator of the conference. What does he expect to be new at the upcoming conference in early 2007 that he hasn't been seen by farmers at the past conference?
"We will still be maintaining our focus on nitrogen management, but nitrogen won't be the only topic covered. We'll explain the data we've collected from farmers in 2006 regarding various crop management practices," says Blackmer. "This fall, we've had data from every county coming into us for analysis. We've already summarized a lot of it and you can view the results on our Web site."
It's about more than just nitrogen
One thing ISA is adding to this year's meeting that's different: there will be multiple sessions held at the same time. That's so farmers who attend can learn more about how to process the data themselves. Also, so you can learn how to install a yield monitor in a tractor or combine cab and the proper way to put GPS on your farm machinery to record where your test strips are located in the fields.
Blackmer and colleagues will also discuss fungicide trials they've run in soybean fields on farms the past few years. In addition, they'll talk about tillage trials and how to use remote sensing data. "We've expanded the number of topics offered at this year's meeting -- to further reinforce the value of doing on-farm research for our cooperating farmers who test these practices in their fields," says Blackmer.
What is the On-Farm Network?
What is the On-Farm Network? What is its purpose? "Growers who sign up to participate in our program use the newer technologies to evaluate and test which crop management practices work best on their farm," explains Blackmer. "Most farmers find at least one management practice or one thing they can be doing better in their farming operation. For example, maybe they want to learn how to do a better job of managing nitrogen. They can test the different options for the different N management practices they want to improve on their farm.
"What we do from our ISA offices in Des Moines," says Blackmer, "is help the participating farmers interpret the data they collect from their fields. We pull the data together from the hundreds of farms participating in this program across the state. We put all the results together for comparison, and on February 21 we gather and explain what we've learned to the farmers who attend the meeting."
Why are farmers so interested and willing to participate in this program? "Most of the farmers who participate find ways to make more money," says Blackmer. "They've found out how to become more efficient and improve their management practices. It's all voluntary—farmers make their own decisions as to whether or not they want to participate in our on-farm testing program."
Conference open to anyone interested
"Being able to use this new precision ag technology to find out how to make more money is something farmers want to learn how to do," he notes.
The February 21 all-day conference at Ames will certainly be attended by a lot of the cooperating farmers who participated in the trials on their farms. They want to come to this conference. But ISA is also inviting all farmers to come who wish to, even if they are not in the program. "This conference is open to anyone who wants to attend," says Blackmer. "That includes agronomists and farmers—even if they have not actually participated in our trials but who want to come just to learn about the results of the trials."
If you'd like to learn more about this conference or results of the 2006 studies, log onto www.iasoybeans.com and click on the "ISA Farmnet" link.