Farmer checking cell phone by John Deere tractor

(Photo: Joclyn Bushman/Iowa Soybean Association)

Tools for the trade: ISA takes the lead in developing online decision-making tools

December 9, 2021 | Kriss Nelson

Since 2005, the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) has worked with farmers to conduct replicated strip trials on various commercial products and traditional and emerging farm management practices.

By 2011, data from thousands of trials had been accumulated. ISA turned the data into a free online database of anonymous trial results. As data continued to accumulate, ISA recognized the need to further maximize use of the data.

Thus, the analytics team at ISA led by Peter Kyveryga, senior research scientist and director of analytics, was formed in 2013.

“I saw more value to use the data to predict the probability that would determine the likelihood of a yield response with current crop market prices and the cost to implement a treatment if it would fully pay for itself or produce a profit,” Kyveryga says.

In 2018, together with Iowa State University researchers, the team launched its flagship interactive online tool: ISOFAST (Interactive Summaries of On-Farm Strip Trials). Since then, four more interactive tools have been added and they can be found under the "Research" tab on our website.

Nothing compares

The ISA tools are unique as they leverage an interactive online platform designed for information visualization and statistical and economic summarization to help farmers make more informed decisions.

They also aid in the communication of overlapping areas, including agronomy, conservation, economics and technology while addressing the complex nature of ag decisions, volatility in prices, input cost, crop productivity, weather and sustainability.

Recently, Carroll County ISA farmer members Ryan and Tarin Tiefenthaler sat down with ISA Conservation Agronomist Joe Wuebker for a tutorial on using the interactive tools. “The access to all this information in one place is awesome,” says Tarin. They are now looking forward to using the information to help plan for the 2022 growing season.

ISA conservation agronomist, Joe Wuebker trains Ryan and Tarin Tiefenthaler, farmers from Carroll, on using the ISOFAST tool.

Cover Crop Simulator

This user-provided input tool is designed for farmers, landowners, crop consultants and agronomists interested in measuring and weighing cover crops’ environmental, agronomic and economic outcomes through simulation of different scenarios.

Jack Boyer, ISA farmer-member and veteran cover crop grower near Reinbeck, was called upon to provide feedback during the development of the Cover Crop Net Return Economic Simulator.

“It really helped to allow farmers to review it — it made some of the aspects more realistic,” says Boyer. “Those that have experience with cover crops could see the real benefits and were able to make some judgments if the simulator would be effective.”

Although Boyer has been raising cover crops for 11 years, he still finds the simulator beneficial and recommends beginners and those with similar experiences use the tool.

“Even though producers may have decided what works for their operation, it can help quantify the results in discussions with other farmers,” he says.

Ryan navigates the cover crop simulator with ease and plans on using it for his operation and to help his customers make cover crop management decisions.

“It’s user-friendly and a useful sales tool,” he says.

Soybean Quality Economic Simulator

This tool allows for the simulation and visualization of potential economic returns from protein premium payments based on soybean quality. It also allows user input to adjust factors, such as soybean grain price, expected yield, yield change and premium payment amount.


ISOFAST provides a deeper understanding of agronomic and economic impacts to aid farmers and agronomists in decision-making based on more than 50 ISA on-farm studies in corn and soybeans.

“It’s a great tool for farmers to compare and contrast different products,” Ryan Tiefenthaler says. “For winter research, while planning for next spring, this is a great tool to check out.” Soybean Variable Rate Planting Simulator Before flying solo, student pilots use a flight simulator. Why not use a similar approach when deciding whether to use soybean variable rate seeding?

With three years of the user’s historical data, including historical soybean yield maps, seed cost and expected yield response, the tool simulates different variable planting rate scenarios to maximize return and minimize cost.

Vegetation Index Time Series Imagery Tool

This tool communicates the differences between uncalibrated and calibrated aerial imagery sources collected by drone, satellite and airplanes. It also reports time series of different imagery vegetation indices of crop canopy to identify with infield yield variability zones in corn and soybean and shows the correlation between yield and vegetation indices from the beginning to the end growing season.

“Our goal is to combine the data from this research with the soybean quality research and create a farmerfriendly open-source platform for remote sensing and GIS-based agronomic and economic analyses agricultural and conservation community’s decision making,” says Kyveryga.

For the farmers, with thanks to the farmers

ISA data analyst Suzanne Fey, acknowledges farmer participation makes their work possible, whether conducting a strip trial for ISOFAST or helping to develop the Cover Crop Net Return Economic Simulator.

“We have committed farmers,” she says. “The only thing that makes it possible is working with farmers.”

Looking to the future

The next generation of ISA tools will incorporate the direct collection of data and data sharing by and between farmers with data privacy preservation to identify crop production threats in real-time for practical applications.