2012 Illinois Yield Challenge offers sponsors a venue for testing new methods to improve soybean yields

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

The Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) is calling all Illinois major crop input manufacturers, suppliers and ag retailers to take part in the 2012 Yield Challenge. This unique program – sponsored by ISA and funded by the Illinois soybean checkoff – encourages participants to test new and innovative crop management strategies that may help them reach higher levels of yield and profit potential.

"There are many ways organizations can become involved with the 2012 Yield Challenge," explained Jim Nelson, Yield Challenge program coordinator. "Whether you participate in demonstrations or by investing in a sponsorship, we guarantee you a connection with progressive soybean growers throughout Illinois. It's a great environment to try out something new."

ISA created the Yield Challenge as a way to make Illinois soybean growers the global leaders in soybean yields. Teams of growers from nine districts across the state farm side-by-side plots using traditional techniques on one and innovative methods on the other. Along the way, participants also monitor their crops, record planning information, and collect harvest data and other information. These details are then analyzed to generate recommendations for future production years.

"We've sponsored teams in almost every district," stated Bob Lawless, an agronomist for Syngenta. "The most valuable change I've noticed with the Yield Challenge is that when a grower is on a team, he spends more time in the field, talking to his agronomist, his seed guy, his fertility guy, his chemical guy. These participants ask more questions and, as a result, learn things they can use in the Challenge and in their everyday operations. I see that as a real positive."

In addition to helping growers maximize their production levels and return on investment, the Yield Challenge also benefits its sponsors in several ways:

Build stronger personal relationships with participating growers

Earn a reputation as a leader in crop solutions and advancements

Receive solid, proven and measured results on new projects or strategies

Gain higher visibility through recognition at related events and on the program's website and team plot signs

Yield Challenge sponsorships are very flexible, allowing each business partner to adapt it to their particular situation and goals. Plus, ISA works with them to build the right team structure. Suppliers can establish their own team(s), or ISA will collaborate with "orphan" teams to identify a potential sponsor based on the strategies the team members want to explore, demo and test. Ultimately, the winners are the businesses and their customers who profit from the knowledge gained.

"The Yield Challenge is a valuable learning opportunity for soybean growers and the industry as a whole," added ISA Director and Yield Challenge participant Ross Prough. "Because there is a control plot and a challenge plot, you can really see how different farming methods impact yield, plant health and overall soybean quality. Last year's Challenge resulted in an average yield increase of 5.2 percent; we are confident we can do even better this year!"

If you are interested in learning more about the Yield Challenge and how to become a team or promotional sponsor, please visit or contact Nelson at (309) 825-7542 or email