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Multi-state on-farm partnership: Unbiased and aggregated data

Article cover photo
Row spacing is just one of the practices being tested by the NCSRP multi-state On-Farm Partnership project taking place in nine of the 12 NCSRP member states. Photo credit: Allie Arp, Iowa Soybean Association

By Allie Arp, NCSRP communications liaison, ISA research communications specialist

Every year farmers are overloaded with promotions and sales information about what new products and practices are going to guarantee their farm has big yields. But how can farmers trust information, know where it came from or if recommendations and claims will work for them? The North Central Soybean Research Program (NCSRP) is funding a multi-state on-farm research project that tests four common practices to help farmers make more informed decisions.

“Going on its third year, this project is a fantastic opportunity to help farmers understand what products and practices can help drive their bottom line with soybean production,” said Nathan Paul, principal investigator for the Multi-State On-Farm Partnership, and operations manager for the Iowa Soybean Association. “Partnering with researchers in 13 states is a testament to the commitment to generate good, non-biased data for public consumption.”

Some of the biggest benefits of the NCSRP are the ability to replicate trials and research in a non-redundant fashion across a large region, conduct research within each state and then aggregate the information to help farmers in all of the states. A unique part of this project is that unlike funded university research, the trials are conducted on farmers’ land with farmers’ equipment. This set up provides a real-world situation for evaluating products and practices.

Nine of NCSRP’s member states implemented trials this year on soybean row spacing, in-furrow fungicides, starter fertilizer, foliar fertilizer and soybean population.

“We started this project three years ago with a small grant and only conducted soybean row-spacing trials,” Paul said. “To have expanded to five research topics in only three years, is incredible and shows the need for unbiased soybean production data in farmer decision-making.

The nine NCSRP states involved with the project implemented 32 soybean trials this past growing season. In addition to yield data, stand counts also were collected for all trials. The 2017 breakdown of trial types was:

  • 17 population trials
  • Five foliar fertilizer
  • Five starter fertilizer
  • Four row spacing
  • One in-furrow fungicide

Data is still being collected, but Paul did offer some preliminary results based on data from previous years. The majority of the row spacing trials showed a positive yield response in trials comparing 15 inch rows with 30 inch rows. The average was +1 bushel an acre increase across 17 trials. While each state compared different rates in the population trials, in most cases the lower populations performed the same or even better than the highest population rate.

Data and reports generated from the trials will be posted on the United Soybean Board website under Farmer Resources>Soybean Strip Trial Database. There will also be information on the Soybean Research and Information Initiative website.

NCSRP executive director Ed Anderson has seen an increase in the popularity and credibility of replicated strip trials and on-farm research in recent years. He hopes the success of these initial projects will help expand the projects reach in both the number of farmers and the number of projects to complement university plot results and give farmers a comparison to company-provided numbers.

“Farmers across the North Central region have expressed great support in participating in these trials and leveraging the results and information for their benefit,” said Anderson. “Farmers will benefit from the unbiased and reliable results and information as they make product and practice decisions each year.”

For media inquiries, please contact Katie Johnson, ISA Public Relations Manager at or Aaron Putze, ISA Communications Director at

For permission to republish articles or to request high-res photos contact Aaron Putze at Iowa Soybean Association | 1255 SW Prairie Trail Pkwy | Ankeny | IA | 50023 | US

©2018 Iowa Soybean Association On-Farm Network®. All rights reserved. On-Farm Network® is a registered trademark of the Iowa Soybean Association, Ankeny, IA.Portions of some On-Farm Network trials are paid for in total or in part by the soybean checkoff.