Farmers chart course for Iowa Soybean Association research

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More than 200 farmers, crop consultants, industry partners, government and academic officials and others gathered at the Vision and Feedback Forum Feb. 19 to discuss crop production ideas and trends in such things as in precision agriculture, integrated cropping systems, stewardship of crop genetics and pest management chemistries, natural resource management and environmental quality, and data management to help Iowa Soybean Association research staff set the course for the program's future.

The evening session opened with Dr. Ed Anderson, ISA senior director of supply & production, explaining the vision of ISA's research groups which include On-Farm Network, Environmental Programs & Services and Analytics. These three groups will integrate on research to promote productivity, profitability and sustainability.

Dr. Greg Tylka, an Iowa State University plant pathologist and nematologist, talked about plans for a proposed Iowa Soybean Research Center, which will be a collaborative effort between ISU, ISA and industry. He said it will create an "organization for innovation."

This was followed by discussions at each table in the room, with a designated moderator to report back on answers to three questions:

• What are the biggest issues and opportunities facing soybean farmers?

• What does the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy mean to you?

• How can the ISA research teams be leaders in delivering value to you?

Pat Reeg, On-Farm Network Director, says the insight gained from the table discussions is a tremendous asset in ensuring that ISA's vision is aligned with the research needs of famers.

"The groups discussed opportunities and some obstacles associated with the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy," Reeg says. "They also talked about improving agronomic decisions using 'big data' as well as concerns with security and how data is utilized."

Feedback information will be used by ISA's On-Farm Network and Environmental Programs & Services teams and collaborative partners like Iowa State University (ISU).

Chris Gaesser, Lenox, was a moderator at a table full of young, aspiring farmers. He says the discussion gave them the opportunity to think about the future, and what they need from the On-Farm Network in order to move forward.

The younger farmers at Gaesser's table suggested that ISA to concentrate research efforts on combating herbicide resistant weeds and look more into use of biological products as alternatives to chemicals. And they also want ISA to continue efforts in encouraging lawmakers to provide more incentives for conservation work.

Other areas of emphasis, among dozens suggested Wednesday evening, include:

• Continue efforts to increase yields, in order to offset rising costs of land, equipment and inputs.

• Communicate the accomplishments of farmers working toward the goals of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

• Conduct cover crop research to help identify crops to use, seeding and termination methods, and any changes farmers need to make in nutrient application.

• Work with farmers to help them manage and use the field data they collect.

• Continue to look for ways to improve soybean competitiveness with other crops.

Denny Friest, Radcliffe, an On-Farm Network participant from its inception, said agronomic trials have been a huge benefit on his farm. "I'm a big believer in what we're doing here," he says. He adds that nearly all farmers are equipped to collect the data needed for On-Farm Network studies.

"We all have the data. Working with the On-Farm Network lets us understand and get value from it."

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