Rows of healthy agricultural soybean crops. Beautiful sunset landscape.

Farmer-Driven On-Farm Research Website Data Provides Best Management Practices for Planting Season 2019

Apr 06, 2019

Data collected from farmers’ fields and SDSU Research Stations show that seed treatments and starter fertilizers could provide early season insurance against poor soil conditions and help stimulate early season growth, says David Clay, South Dakota State University Professor of Soil Science.

These practices top Clay’s list for best management recommendations South Dakota’s soybean farmers should consider as they prepare for planting season 2019.

“Under similar planting conditions, we saw benefits from these practices,” Clay says.

Checkoff-funded South Dakota Soybean On-Farm Research Program provided Clay with some of the unbiased-research data he used for these recommendations. A collaborative effort between the South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council (SDSRPC), SDSU Extension and the South Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station at SDSU, the On-Farm Research Program is designed so farmers can easily participate in on-farm research of their choosing, have professionals evaluate the data and share the results with other farmers through the program’s website.

Because the farmer-driven research data is collected from fields across South Dakota, managed by farmers not scientists, Clays says in some cases, results can vary from what is collected from SDSU Research Station test plots.

“For example, in-season inoculant applications in On-Farm Research showed a 4 to 5-bushel yield increase in many fields where it was applied. The yield increase surprised all of us,” Clay says. “One of our tasks for this year, is to answer the question of why?”

Information on these trials is available at the South Dakota On-Farm Website,

Data gleaned from On-Farm Research Program is tested further by Clay and SDSU researchers to develop recommendations. “Data from on-farm experiments can be used to calculate the economic responses,” Clay says. “We then conduct experiment station, small-plot research and detailed experiments to answer the questions of why responses are observed or not observed?” Clay explains SDSU researchers will do more research to identify the similarities and differences between SDSU test plots and farmers’ fields.

“In times of increasing input costs and decreasing profits, farmers need local information, from research conducted in neighbors’ fields so they can make the best decisions,” Clay says.

Expanding the unbiased research footprint to better serve South Dakota’s farmers by providing them with cost-saving, yield boosting tips is the motivation behind the On-Farm Research Website explains Craig Converse, a Brookings soybean farmer and SDSRPC chairman.

“It’s real data, collected from real-life farming practices,” says Converse, who received his master’s in Agronomy at SDSU in 1999. “South Dakota has a lot of climate and soil diversity. And, every farmer’s management practices are a bit different. With the On-Farm Research website, I can look at data collected from farms in my county with similar soil types and field conditions.”

Confidential, unbiased and easy to participate

Converse signed up to participate in the On-Farm Research program when the program started in 2014. He says participation requires little effort on his part. Interested farmers are free to choose the research topic they want to investigate.

“SDSU collects the data. SDSU analyzes the data. SDSU provides me with the data and shares it on the website so other farmers can use it to make decisions too. Basically, I let SDSU know what I want to research, and they assist from there,” Converse says.

To participate, farmers just need to contact SDSU researchers prior to planting so the researchers can work with farmers to set up trials, so the experiment and results are valid.

Researchers conduct site visits throughout the growing season and help analyze the results once crops are harvested. All farmer and location information are confidential.

The more farmers involved, the stronger the impact. “Every growing season is unique. We are able to provide recommendations going into this cool, wet season, because we collected data from other cool, wet planting seasons. And, we need to research more practices so we can provide more unbiased, research-based recommendations,” explains Graig Reicks, SDSU Research Associate.

This growing season, Clay and Reicks are eager to learn from soybean farmers how cover crops, like rye, impacted their fields’ ability to dry out. Farmers who planted a cover crop last fall should consider a simple trial.

“Remember, trials are not limited, farmers can investigate whatever they desire,” Reicks explained.

To participate in the South Dakota Soybean On-Farm Research Program simply visit: or call the SD Soybean Office at 605-330-9942.