ISU On-Farm Demonstration Trials: Opportunities for Farmers

March 2, 2020 4:38 PM
Blog Post

The Iowa State University on-farm cooperator demonstration trial program has a long-standing relationship with Iowa corn and soybean farmers. This program provides support and assistance to farmers interested in setting up strip trials to test new ideas on their farms. Local agricultural specialists, associated with ISU research farms, assist cooperators in the design, implementation and the analysis of the trial. The answers received from these trials allow farmers a firsthand look at products and practices so they can make better decisions on their operations. In 2019, 36 farmer-cooperators in 24 counties assisted in conducting 91 on-farm trials.

On-farm trials focus on agronomic practices and products, farm management studies and mechanical approaches to help producers improve their operations. These trials are conducted by farmer cooperators on their own farms or through ISU Research farms and associations. Test strips have varying sizes that meet individual farmers equipment and have at least three replications per treatment.  The results from all ISU on-farm demonstration trials are reported every year in the ISU Research farm reports at the ISU digital repository. The trials can be found here and by searching each individual farm report.

An example of an ISU on-farm trials study from 2019 would be the application of the nutrient sulfur to both corn and soybeans. Sulfur deficiency has been showing up more frequently in Iowa corn fields in recent years. Studies have shown that yield responses are possible when fertilizing corn with sulfur. While deficiencies are more common in coarse or eroded soils, visual symptoms of sulfur deficiency can occur in all soil types. The objective of these trials was to evaluate potential yield response in corn and soybeans to sulfur applications. While only one trial in this study resulted in a significant yield response that we can be confident was related to the application of sulfur, results on your own farm may vary. Read more about Sulfur Management for Iowa Crop Production (CROP 3072).

Iowa State University and the on-farm trials program are committed to helping producers to improve their farms by providing unbiased information to help make decisions. Farmers conducting on-farm trials and sharing results from many sites within a region provides a better understanding of how management decisions interact with weather and soil variability. This understanding can help improve profitability for all farmers across the state. If you would like to learn more about ISU on-farm trials and on-farm trial results, or would like to create your own trial, please contact a member of the on-farm team listed below. You can also contact your local ISU field agronomist with questions about trials and information.

On-Farm Trials Team:


Michael Witt Field Agronomist in WC Iowa

Michael Witt is a field agronomist in west central Iowa for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Educational programs and learning opportunities are available for farmers, agribusinesses, certified crop advisors, agronomists, and farm managers. Areas of expertise include agronomic evalua...