Research Groups Offer Farmer-Tested Answers

Research Groups Offer Farmer-Tested Answers

April 4, 2008


Why do farmers like conducting the on-farm research?

Following are just a few of the reasons NSFGP members shared in a survey:


"We have participated for almost 10 years in the NFSGPP and find that year in and year out more is learned about how to make the bottom line blacker from this type of program rather than from reading journals. Why? Because it fits the field and farmer in his conditions, using his methods."


"From my starter fertilizer plots, I learned that 10-34-0 was as effective as a more expensive starter fertilizer. This has saved me $5 an acre per year on 500 acres of corn for the last six years. This has been a savings of $15,000 for me for the last six years."


"To me, the approach of the farmer asking the question that will be answered by testing on his farm with his equipment and labor is in the highest tradition of teaching, and the best part is that both the farmer and consultant benefit."


Everyone has heard about a new product or a new practice that can increase crop yields with minimal investment. Sometimes it may be a great idea, but how do you sift through the claims to determine which changes are likely to work on a particular farm and which represent wasted efforts or inputs.

On-farm, replicated research selected by and conducted by farmers is one way to test new ideas and products under real-life, practical conditions. That's the goal of more than 150 Nebraska producers, Extension experts and agribusiness representatives participating in on-farm research groups.

The "on-farm research let's you see if it actually does work on your farm or your situation," said Brandon Hunnicutt of Giltner, who is a member of the Greater Quad County On-farm Research Group. "Farmers doing their own research is very important. If you're willing to step out and try something new through one of the research groups in the state, the benefits are tremendous," he said.

Two Groups Formed

Extension educators and producers formed two on-farm research groups more than 10 years ago to design replicated and randomized research trials to study recommended and proposed practices and products of interest to members.

The Greater Quad County On-farm Research Program originally included Clay, Fillmore, Hamilton, and York counties, but has now expanded to include neighboring counties. The Nebraska Soybean and Feed Grains Profitability Group is based in Saunders, Dodge, Lancaster, and Cass counties in east central Nebraska.

"Producers bring the ideas forward," said Dan Aspegren, a Geneva farmer who has participated in the research trials. "I've tried some ideas I hadn't heard about before." While the salesman may say the benefit is considerable for a product that costs $5-$10 an acre, he said, if the research doesn't find any benefit or at least not an economic benefit under conditions similar to his, that's good to know.

"Not all these new products are worth the money," he said.

Being able to take an idea and utilize it on a number of farms across multiple counties allows you to get more information more quickly, Hunnicutt said. It also allows for trials with larger field areas and farm equipment and different farming practices, soils, rainfall patterns and climates to compare factors that might influence results. Members say participating in the research has helped provide valuable information for decision-making and has led to cost-cutting changes.

Each of the research groups operates a little differently, but generally research participants meet in the winter to review statistical analyses of the previous year's research and discuss and select research projects for the coming year. NFSGPP participants, who are required to commit to a minimum of three years participation, meet with an extension educator and agribusiness representative or specialist to discuss and design their research, said Keith Glewen, the Saunders County Extension educator working with the NFSGPP project with Dave Varner, Extension educator in Dodge County.

The Greater Quad County Group also selects one study that all members will participate in, said Gary Zoubek, one of the extension educators working with the Greater Quad County Group, The Extension educators then help design replicated and randomized research trials that will provide trustworthy results.

Producer equipment is used to establish, manage and harvest field-size research comparisons. Producers, consultants, and educators monitor the fields and record relevant data. University personnel analyze results and document profitability differences among treatments. On-farm research designs are verified and yields are measured with calibrated weigh wagons and/or yield monitors. Statistical analysis is conducted on all research data and often includes economical data.


To learn more about these on-farm research groups, contact one of the educators listed below or visit UNL's On Farm Research Web site at The site includes research results, program descriptions, and information on designing your on-farm research comparison.


Quad County On-Farm Research Project

Jenny Rees
111 W Fairfield
Clay Center, NE 68933-1499
Phone: 402-762-3644
Fax: 402-762-3600

Jim Schneider
P.O. Box 308
Aurora, NE 68818-0308
Phone: 402-694-6174
Fax: 402-694-6175

Brandy VanDeWallle
972 G St.
Geneva, NE 68361-2005
Phone: 402-759-3712
Fax: 402-759-3764

Gary Zoubek
2345 Nebraska Aveune
York, NE 68467-1104
Phone: 402-362-5508
Fax: 402-362-5509


Nebraska Soybean and Feed Grains Profitability Project

Keith Glewen
UNL Extension Educator
1071 County Road G, Room B
Ithaca, NE 68033-2234
Phone: 402-624-8030
Fax: 402-624-8010

Dave Varner
UNL Extension Educator
1206 West 23rd Street
Fremont, NE 68025
Phone: 402-727-2775
Fax: 402-727-2777

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