Turn Questions to Research Opportunities

Turn Questions to Research Opportunities

June 26, 2015

With heavy rains and delayed planting in some areas, this season has presented challenges for growers. It also has presented some opportunities for on-farm research that wouldn't be available in a more typical year.

We have received questions about cultivating and hilling of corn and soybeans to help dry out the soil because of all the rains. The question is:  Does this practice do any good or does it waste energy and increase water losses? Other questions have included: How far has nitrogen moved in the profile? Have we lost nitrogen as a result of the heavy rains? How much nitrogen should be sidedressed?

These questions are perfect opportunities to conduct some easy on-farm research. All you need to do is leave a strip of two (or more) combine widths where you do nothing; adjacent to this strip cultivate or hill an equal number of combine widths. Alternate this with-and-without cultivation pattern at least three more times so you end up with four alternating strips without cultivation and four alternating strips with cultivation. (See Table 1.)

Table 1. Illustration of how research strips could be laid out and yield reported for a with-and-without cultivation trial.
Rep 1
Untreated
Yield:
Cultivated/Hilled
Yield:
Rep 2
Cultivated/Hilled
Yield:
Untreated
Yield:
Rep 3
Untreated
Yield:
Cultivated/Hilled
Yield:
Rep 4
Cultivated/Hilled
Yield:
Untreated
Yield:
Rep 5
Untreated
Yield:
Cultivated/Hilled
Yield:
Rep 6
Cultivated/Hilled
Yield:
Untreated
Yield:
Rep 7
Untreated
Yield:
Cultivated/Hilled
Yield:

By doing this you'll have several replications, which will help account for inconsistencies from one area to the next and provide more reliable data. At harvest time you'll harvest two side-by-side strips of each treatment so that you'll have paired comparisons. Yield will need to be collected for each strip of the trial (Table 1); however, the two side-by-side green strips can be achieved with one pass of the cultivator or hiller as long as two combine passes can be obtained from this area.  (The cultivating implement would need to be twice the combine header width.)

Capture and record two separate weights per strip. After harvest share the weights with your Extension Educator who will work with the Nebraska On-Farm Research Network in conducting the statistical analysis.

You could conduct a similar sidedress nitrogen trial this year to study yield response of adding nitrogen. Three nitrogen sidedress study protocols are available online at cropwatch.unl.edu/farmresearch/protocols to guide you through studies on: 

  • PSNT-N +/- 30#,
  • UNL recommended corn nitrogen sidedress rec +/- 30#, and
  • a Maize-N sidedress vs producer sidedress.

These protocols have layouts that may be a good starting place to understand how to set up the trial and how to leave A buffer with nitrogen studies.  Of course a grower could compare a number of different sidedress rates, leave non-sidedressed checks, or not use a tool to generate the N rate, but rather test a range or rates of their choosing.

Note:  The culitvation and sidedress studies described here should not be conducted in the same strips as it wouldn't be possible to tell which of the practices had caused the yield response.

Research Assistance

For more information on conducting research on your farm, visit cropwatch.unl.edu/farmresearch or contact your local educator. We'd be glad to help you plan a study.

Gary Zoubek
Chuck Burr
Laura Thompson
Keith Glewen
Extension Educators