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Research Highlights

Research Highlights
Evaluating Ideas with Missouri’s Certified Strip Trial Program

A cover crop trial in Cooper County, Missouri, comparing two cover crops (wheat or cereal rye) and a no-cover control.

By Barb Baylor Anderson

Missouri soybean farmers have found success validating crop management decisions and documenting efficiency and environmental stewardship through the Missouri Certified Strip Trial Program for five years. The Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council helps support this program to help farmers answer practical and timely issues they face every season.

“The University of Missouri Certified Strip Trial Program is uniquely focused on identifying and answering practical management questions on Missouri farms,” says John Lory, University of Missouri Extension specialist and a coordinator of the program. “A strip trial program has the potential to expand the delivery of unbiased best management recommendations for nutrient management, agronomic and conservation management practices.”

Typically, strip trials provide side-by-side comparisons of an agronomic practice. Multiple, long strips are laid out side by side in a field at least five times with a minimum strip length of 500 feet. The strips are created with each farmer’s own equipment, giving the cooperating farmer the opportunity to personally test new ideas or evaluate current management on their farm.

“From the big-picture perspective, we are currently expanding the number of farmers using comparisons on their farm to answer questions,” says Lory of the checkoff-funded research. “In tight economic times, having another tool to document value is important.”

Lory adds from a practical perspective, farmers have recently documented many of the opportunities and challenges of managing cover crops. The work supplements other programs supporting cover crop trials in Missouri. For example, the Soil Health Partnership has sponsored six trials in Missouri looking at long-term effects (five years) on a wide array of soil properties.

“Farmers continue to support cover crop trials,” says Lory. “Farmers also have supported plant protection trials, particularly related to fungicides. Trials related to fertilizer, particularly nitrogen, potassium and sulfur use, always rank high. This program demonstrates proactive intent of Missouri farmers to use agrochemicals and nutrients wisely and efficiently, documents effective practices and promotes practical innovations in agronomic management.”

A cover crop termination date trial in Cooper County, Missouri.

A farmer panel prioritizes trials. Current trials looking for farmer participants include cover crop termination, soybean seed treatments, nitrogen response and soybean R3 fungicide use.  After deciding to participate in a strip trial, farmers can work with a member of the strip trial team, an Extension specialist or their crop consultant to plan, lay out and implement a trial. More details are found at https://extension2.missouri.edu/programs/strip-trial-program/trial-options.

For farmers who do participate, Lory recommends keeping comparisons simple. “The best are trials with two treatments. You need to have replicates across a field to see the pattern,” he says.

Photos courtesy of John Lory.

To find research related to this Research Highlight, please visit the National Soybean Checkoff Research Database.