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Radcliffe farmer says sustainability and profitability work hand-in-hand

Article cover photo
Denny Friest has been awarded the 2019 ISA Innovator in Production Research Award for his commitment to using research and technology to help validate and manage practices that improve profitability. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

By Lauren Houska, ISA communications specialist

Denny Friest of Radcliffe accepted the Innovator in Production Research Award, sponsored by John Deere, at the annual Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) awards banquet Dec. 13 for his commitment to production research to improve the profitability of Iowa soybean farmers.

As a fourth-generation farmer, Friest raises soybeans and corn on his family farm near Radcliffe in Hardin County where he has been farming for 48 years.

A long-time Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) member, Friest believes farmers can be profitable with sustainability in mind.

“Sustainability works hand-in-hand with being a cost-efficient producer. Each farmer needs to look at what fits their operation and find what works for them,” said Friest.

Technology is more than a buzzword for Friest. He utilizes GPS and OptRx® crop sensors to measure the amount of nitrogen that a plant needs, helping reduce his input costs.

As part of the ISA board of directors that initiated the On-Farm Network® in 2001, Friest has been involved with ISA’s research teams since the beginning. Friest utilizes On-Farm Network trial data to make informed management decisions, which has been vital to the success of his farming operation.

Friest started conducting replicated strip trials on his operation to compare different nitrogen application rates and find ways to be more efficient and profitable.

 “Why spend more money on nutrients if you don’t need to? I was able to gauge how much I could reduce fertilizer applications — and in turn, nutrient loss, reducing input costs while achieving environmental benefits.” said Friest. “Yield is important, but profit per acre is king.”

Denny Friest on chasing yields vs. bolstering bottom lines
Denny Friest on chasing yields vs. bolstering bottom lines

The north-central Iowa farmer is passionate about bringing workable water quality solutions to the public and has been involved with the 4R Plus nutrient management program Land O’Lakes’ SUSTAIN™ network.

“Farmers are part of the nutrient runoff problem, so we need to be part of the solution.”

Friest also chaired the Middle East International Marketing Committee for the World Initiative for Soy in Human Health for the American Soybean Association and served nine years on the American Soybean Board.

Geared towards passing his operation to the next generation, Friest has three children with his wife, Helen and farms with his son, Brent.

Katie Johnson, ISA public relations manager, contributed to this report. 

Contact Lauren at lhouska@iasoybeans.comContact Katie at

For media inquiries, permission to republish articles or to request high-res photos, please contact Katie James, ISA Public Relations Manager at © 2020 Iowa Soybean Association. All rights reserved.

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