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Dordt College News

Dordt Ag Department conducting on-farm research

July 28, 2006

What did you do on your summer vacation?

For Dordt College junior Sara Top, the answer goes far beyond the usual. This Maurice, IA, biology major spent part of her summer catching and counting beetles in cornfields at Dordt College’s Ag Stewardship Center.

The summer research project is a corn rootworm beetle emergence crop trial, conducted by the Dordt Agriculture Department in cooperation with a pilot program of Northwest Iowa On-Farm Research. Their crop research is funded by Iowa State University (ISU) Extension, ISU Research Farms, and the Northwest Iowa Experimental Association.

Sara Top

Dordt’s ag department is also participating in a soybean population study with Northwest Iowa On-Farm Research, planting soybeans at 125,000, 150,000, and 175,000 plants per acre, replicated five times, to track how these seed populations translate into crop yields. Fifteen farm producers in Lyon, Sioux and Osceola counties are also assisting with 23 additional production research studies this summer, who all hope to put useful information into the hands of area farmers. Outcomes of these field studies will help producers discover which chemicals, seeds and methods yield best results on crops.

For the corn rootworm beetle emergence trial, 12 beetle traps were installed in an organic cornfield at Dordt’s Ag Stewardship Center. Top monitors the traps weekly through the middle of August, to determine if variant strains of northern and western corn rootworms are present. In the past, a corn-soybean rotation prevented root feeding and emergence of these pests, but corn varieties that are genetically engineered for rootworm resistance have resulted in northern rootworm beetles with extended diapause and western rootworm beetles that now lay eggs in soybean fields, posing a risk in spite of crop rotation.

In addition to the two Northwest Iowa On-Farm Research studies, Dordt College has four independent crop studies being conducted by students and faculty this summer. These trials at the ASC are for the benefit of students in agriculture department courses, says Dr. Chris Goedhart, professor of agriculture at Dordt. “Students help sample, harvest, and analyze data collected in these replicated, randomized on-farm research trials.” Goedhart said students also make suggestions for research in future years. This year the following trials are being conducted:

In a soybean cyst nematode trial, a Dordt biology student is sampling soybean fields for the presence of soybean cyst nematodes, with the trial replicated on five varieties.

Three varieties of New Vistive™ soybeans have been planted for another comparison trial. Regular soybeans contain about 8% linolenic acid which is unstable in the presence of oxygen and develops a rancid smell/taste. Hydrogenating soybean oil prevents oxidation, but results in the production of trans-fatty acids. New Vistive™ varieties contain less than 3% linolenic fatty acid, reducing or eliminating the need to hydrogenate oils.

A Liberty-link corn trial is examining the yield differences of five varieties which possess the Liberty-link trait (Liberty™ herbicide tolerant) when a non-selective herbicide is used. This study is a look at one means of preventing the buildup of herbicide resistant weed populations.

An organic corn trial is an ongoing project on a certified organic field the college has managed for several years. Students and faculty are examining three hybrid varieties to determine which will yield best in this organic management system, and to understand the challenges and opportunities of the organic farming systems.

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