December 02, 2023

Farmers utilize on-farm research to evaluate new practices, products

STREATOR, Ill. — David Isermann has focused on conservation practices to reduce nutrient losses on his northern Illinois farm for many years.

“I farm with my son, Jim, and we strip-till the corn and no-till beans,” said Isermann during a Nutrient Stewardship Field Day.

In addition, the farmers split all the nitrogen applications and they use the Maximum Return to Nitrogen program to help them determine how much nitrogen to apply to their cornfields.

“You enter the expected yield, the price of corn at harvest and the price of nitrogen and the program tells you the economical rate of nitrogen you should put on,” said Isermann, who is also the president of the La Salle County Farm Bureau.

“We do tissue tests through the year and different nitrogen rate tests,” he said.

Two years ago, Isermann worked with the University of Illinois to test 300 different rates of nitrogen in field plots, centering on the MRTN test. The research showed 175 pounds of nitrogen was optimum.

“We went up to over 250 pounds of nitrogen and there was no difference in yield compared to the 175-pound rate,” Isermann said. “The MRTN does work and there is a lot of research behind it.”

This year, the Isermann farm is involved with the Diverse Corn Belt project.

“Purdue and U of I are involved and it is funded by USDA grants,” the farmer said. “They’re looking at a Corn Belt that isn’t corn and soybeans.”

The project is a designed as a five-year program.

“We also have pasture, hay and cattle on our farm,” Isermann said.

“We worked with the struvite product that is from the Water Reclamation District,” he said. “They take phosphorus in the waste stream and turn it into a pellet.”

The pellet does not start to break down and release the phosphorus until a root grows near it.

“So, you don’t have to worry about it leaching,” the farmer said. “But it is really expensive, so now it is used in a lot of vegetable crops.”

This year, the Isermanns are experimenting with biologicals. They planted two hybrids in a 90-acre field and choose to compare three different kinds of biologicals.

“We have 16 rows of each treatment — Zypro, Environoc and Stimulate,” the farmer said.

The field was planted on May 2 and the biologicals were applied with the starter in furrow about a half inch below the seed.

“Hybrid A struggled and had trouble coming out of the ground,” Isermann said. “It was cold and dry so it was not ideal planting conditions.”

Sixteen soil samples were taken from each plot in the row because that is where the fertilizer was placed.

“We got some medium and high results, but nothing that was low,” Isermann said. “Everything was in the row that we think the corn crop needed going by the soil sample.”

Tissue samples were taken on June 14, when the plants were at V5.

“We noticed the potassium levels were low and it was showing on the leaves,” Isermann said. “It was dry so the plants were not taking up the potassium.”

The results of the test showed both hybrids were low for potassium in the Zypro and Stimulate plots.

“Environoc was sufficient. That was the only difference we saw,” Isermann said. “On July 19, we pulled leaves and the same thing shows up.”

Isermann picked four ears of corn from each treatment in the field.

“They all pretty much are the same with the same number of rows around,” Isermann said.

“I can’t tell any difference visually in the field so what’s going to tell the story is the yield maps,” the farmer said.

“The plots are the whole length of the field, not just one spot here or one spot there,” he said. “I’m looking forward to seeing if there’s any difference.”

Martha Blum

Martha Blum

Field Editor