BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Spring is here, which means soybean planting is just around the corner. Interested in testing new practices and comparing how they perform against practices in other fields? Looking to break yield barriers and push pods to their full potential?
Soybean farmers in Illinois who are looking for an edge in production will find the Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) has the answer. The Yield Challenge, which is funded by the ISA checkoff program, is the opportunity to experiment with on-farm trials, discover what works best on specific soils and compete with peers, all for a chance at cash rewards and bragging rights at harvest.
The Yield Challenge was launched in 2010 to encourage growers to conduct on-farm research, evaluating different management practices, to increase yields and profits. As the Yield Challenge enters its eighth year, average contest yields have continued to increase significantly.
“Our goal is to make wise use of checkoff dollars by encouraging farmers to try new things and learn what works best on their farms,” says John Longley, soybean farmer from Aledo, Ill., and ISA Production Committee chair. “Growers want production to be sustainable and profitable. The Yield Challenge provides the forum to take small steps toward a big impact on management practices.”
“The main benefit of the Yield Challenge, to me, is to learn about new production techniques, try new products, and find out what works and what doesn’t,” says Dan Arkels, LaSalle County farmer and the first winner of the 100-Bushel Challenge. “When I learn something that absolutely works in my Yield Challenge plot, I’ll apply that to my production acres the following year.”
So, what can farmers test in the Yield Challenge? There are really no limits to testing a question or challenge farmers want to address. Farmers may package up the best varieties with tillage, planting date, planting practices, seed treatments, foliar protection, foliar feeding, biologicals and more.
Growers can compete in four categories:
1. 100-Bushel Challenge – The grower who achieves the largest yield over 100 bushels per acre takes home a $5,000 prize
2. Crop District Contest – Growers compete within their district for the top yield. First place receives $500 and second place earns $250
3. Side-by-Side Comparison Plots – Growers compare standard practices (control plot) with improved practices (test plot). The grower with the highest percentage yield increase in their district receives $500, while second highest receives $250.
4. Double-Crop Competition – Growers who double-crop soybeans after wheat or another crop harvested the same season can now enter. Crop Districts 6+7 and 8+9 will be combined into two regions. First place receives $500 and second place earns $250 in each region.
The District Yield Contest and District Side-by-Side Contest will have winners from each of the nine districts in Illinois. The 100-Bushel Challenge will only have one winner from top yields in the state, and the new Double-Crop Competition will have winners from two regions in southern Illinois. By organizing competition in districts, growers only compete with peers in the districts where they share similar environment, soils and weather. Growers are eligible to win each category and may enter all four. To review the details, visit www.soyyieldchallenge.com.
“To growers interested in participating in the Yield Challenge, I would suggest it starts with your seed dealer and local co-op or agronomist,” says Arkels. “They’re going to have the products and knowledge you need to get you to the next level. That’s where it all begins. You can’t do it by yourself. Surround yourself with people that are going to help you succeed.”
Different for the Yield Challenge this year is no sign-up, early entry date or entry fee to submit. The entry form will be submitted only at harvest, and is due Nov. 15, 2017. Sign up for the Yield Challenge newsletter and be notified of guidelines and updates at www.soyyieldchallenge.com.
The Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) represents more than 43,000 soybean farmers in Illinois through the state soybean checkoff and membership efforts. The checkoff funds market development, soybean production and profitability research, promotion, issues management and analysis, communications and education. Membership and advocacy efforts support Illinois soybean farmer interests in local areas, Springfield and Washington, D.C. ISA programs are designed to ensure Illinois soy is the highest quality, most dependable, sustainable and competitive in the global marketplace. For more information, visit the website www.ilsoy.org.
— Illinois Soybean Association
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