On-Farm Research: Learn By Doing

On-farm trial leads to change in N application.

By Debbie Clayton & Marilyn Cummins | Photos By Michael Beam

Michael Beam had never questioned the timing of his pre-plant anhydrous ammonia application on corn ground.

“You tend to do what is fastest and most convenient, rather than the most efficient,” says the 37-year-old Wilmington, Ohio, farmer. “We used to put nitrogen down in the early spring when we weren’t doing other things.”

Then he conducted a nitrogen application trial on his farm through the Ohio State University eFields program. As a result, he says, “I realized you get much better results applying nitrogen closer to when the plant needs it.”

Though Beam had conducted on-farm research for several years with OSU, he noticed a big difference when the OSU eFields program started. “The main benefit to me is they publish results from all of the trials, not just averages of trials,” he says. “So you can look at trials close to your area with similar soils and conditions.”

This spring, Beam pulled a 1,600-gallon tank of 32% urea-ammonium nitrate (UAN) behind his planter. “It’s a logistical nightmare but worth it,” says Beam, who farms 1,400 acres of corn and soybeans and a little wheat with his father, Thomas. “Applying nitrogen closer to when it’s needed gives it less time to convert to nitrate and wash down to the tile. Doing what you’ve always done in the past doesn’t cut it anymore.”

Want to learn more about on-farm research? See our full story, “Trial By Farm.”