ISA Agronomists

(Photo: Iowa Soybean Association / Joclyn Bushman)

Is there a better way?

June 22, 2023 | Kriss Nelson

The Iowa Soybean Association (ISA), Iowa Corn and Iowa State University are teaming up for a new trial opportunity on improved cropping systems.

“We’re working to develop and validate an improved cropping system for soybean and corn production in Iowa using individual components that already have been shown to have value,” says Joe McClure, ISA director of research.

The improved cropping systems must increase profitability, improve soil health and protect water resources while reducing soil and nutrient losses.

Farmers joining to improve cropping systems

Participants in the trial will agree to a two to four-year commitment where they will observe replicated strip trials of their current practices and improved systems on a corn and soybean rotation.

Strips should be equivalent to two to three rounds of the combine. Plots are arranged to simplify machine operations. The total plot area for the improved system is approximately 10 to 20 acres.

“We want to compare the improved system versus their standard practices to see if there is improved profitability or what we can learn about improving profitability on their farms,” says ISA Research Agronomist, Scott Nelson.

Farmers will be financially compensated and receive cover crop seed, nitrogen inhibitor, and soil health test results along with farm and project level summaries.

Farmers will also be paired with others that have experience in making these improved cropping systems work and experts in crop management including university and industry leading agronomists.

Other farmer responsibilities include:

  • Provide GIS data like as-applied and yield monitor data
  • Contribute your own ideas and experiences to trial methodology

Predicted merits of improved systems include:

  • Eliminate costs of tillage
  • Optimized nitrogen rates for your geography
  • Increased nutrient use efficiency
  • Simplified weed and disease management
  • Improved trafficability
  • Reduced compaction
  • Greater soil tilth and reduced soil losses
  • Sometimes yield advantage

“Every day I hear about new innovations from farmers making improvements. We have combined practices that farmers have been using to improve their cropping systems into this trial,” says Nelson. “This will allow farmers to explore new practices and possibly a practice they have always wanted to try,” says Nelson.

For more information, contact Nelson at or 515-334-1055.