Meet Bryon Chvatal, a Nebraska On-Farm Researcher

Meet Bryon Chvatal, a Nebraska On-Farm Researcher February 7, 2017

Bryon Chvatal has been conducting trials through the Nebraska On-Farm Research Network for the last 10-12 years, each season taking 40-80 acres to test a practice, product or machinery change. He farms a “mostly dryland,” no-till corn-soybean rotation near Prague.

Byron Chvatal scouting a field
Figure 1. Byron Chvatal of Prague inspects his cover crop in spring 2016 (planted in fall 2015). Results from this on-farm research study will be among those reported at the Nebraska On-Farm Research Network meetings this month. (Photo courtesy of AgWeb.com)

Chvatal’s 2016 data will be among the many trials reported this month at the Nebraska On-Farm Research Network meetings.

Working with Nebraska Extension Educator Keith Glewen and others in the NOFRN group, the Saunders County farmer has tested

  • soybean planting date,  
  • soybean fungicide seed treatments,
  • corn plant populations,
  • in-furrow micro nutrient applications,
  • a combine platform head equipped with an air reel, and
  • cover crops. 

“With early planting of soybeans, you saw the benefit right away,” he said, noting that he tested it over three years under various conditions, but always saw benefit. He now plants soybeans 20-30 days earlier than he did before the trial. “It’s a no brainer if you can get into the field early.” The change has required him to rethink his planting process for corn and soybean and sometimes it’s a little chaotic with two planters running at the same time, he said, but the increased yields have made the effort well worth it.  

He also tested fungicide applications on soybeans, but didn’t find much benefit over the long term.

Last year he tested cover crops in the first year of a multi-year project. While he was concerned that cover crops might reduce yield in dryland acres, there was no yield drag. He’s continuing the study for several years to determine whether benefits outweigh the cost of seed and planting over the longer term. 

The trials, which usually include five to six replications, have benefitted his operation because they “help you get non-biased information specific to your conditions and your management style, tailored to how you operate,” Chvatal said.

The most limiting factor is probably the time it takes to lay out the field length strips at planting and harvest correctly to ensure reliable data, he said. The Nebraska On-Farm Research Network has worked with him to plan the layout to ensure the strips are replicated and that there’s quality control for soil type, environment and other factors.

“They provide the neutral, third-party prospective that a company selling a product can’t do in the same way,” he said. “They also help us look outside the box of what we’re currently doing.”

Confidence in making major decisions and purchases based on data rather than guesstimates is another advantage of conducting on-farm research, he said. When someone is trying to sell you something, “you want to make sure it’s profitable.”

“You may see in a magazine what someone is doing in another state, but your environment and conditions are completely different. It’s your farm and your money and you want to make sure it’s profitable on your farm before investing a lot on it.”

At each of the five Nebraska On-Farm Research Network Reporting meetings being held this month, area growers will be sharing the results of their research and answering questions. While not all projects will be represented at all meetings, data from the projects is shared in an annual report distributed at the meeting.