ISA Yield Challenge Under Way

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

The Illinois Soybean Association (ISA) is proud to announce that more than 40 teams and 200 soybean growers throughout the state are taking part in the 2010 Yield Challenge. What’s more, the feedback coming in has been good as growers anticipate the results of this year’s data. The Yield Challenge also has encouraged many farmers to experiment with new production methods.

Thinking Outside the Box

 “The Yield Challenge has been good for getting the farmers to think of some things they wouldn’t normally do – to think outside the box in the ways they plant,” Bob Lawless, team captain for Syngenta Dist 5 in Livingston County, said. “Most growers in my district have been planting soybeans the same way for many years, but the Challenge has inspired them to try new methods – like doing more with herbicides and fungicides.”

 Todd Thumma, team captain of Syngenta District 1 in northern Illinois, said, “One of the big benefits is that growers are not just seeing soybeans as something to plant, spray and forget. Soybeans are now more than just a commodity and respond to higher management systems, including crop protection and plant performance. It’s not business as usual; they are not using the traditional methods they always have.”

 Since many of the team captains also represent sponsoring seed companies, the fact that growers are using new tactics is a win-win for everyone. “As we witness the results of the new things the growers are trying, there will be a great information exchange,” Shawn Vanausdoll, team captain for the Kitchen Seed Team in Douglas County, said. “Everyone we talked to has had ideas regarding new ways to do things – this year, they are experimenting more to boost their yields. As a result, we expect a lot of good data we can use in the future.”

 Vanausdoll added that word of mouth from the Yield Challenge also has great potential. “As growers discuss their results with one another… and then with other farmers at coffee shops and restaurants, there will be a chain reaction,” he said. “The Yield Challenge is not just about now, but about future effects as well.”

Building Excitement

 The Yield Challenge has not only provided growers with a reason to try new techniques, but it also has sparked enthusiasm for ways in which to enhance yields and increase bottom lines as well. “It’s the first year of the Challenge,” Keith Lawson, team captain for Pioneer LJ1J in northern Illinois, said, “so there’s a learning curve right now, but we all believe it will only get better with time. The growers will see what others are doing and apply the winning tactics to their own fields in the future.”

 The team captain for CPS Ferris in Hancock County, Lance Roskamp indicated that members of his team have been excited about the contest. “It’s given them a look at trying some things they wouldn’t do otherwise.”

 Paul Clough, who has assisted Roskamp with photos and data collection, agreed. “All the growers want to see this result in better data – they want to try more things to improve their yields. Hopefully, we will learn a lot from this information and implement the knowledge to improve yields even more in the future. So much of what we learn is based on variables, but – when combined – it could provide even better results.”

Forming New Partnerships  

 Sarah Gehant, team captain for Super 8s in south central Illinois, said the Yield Challenge has offered growers a wonderful way to see seed and crop protection representatives as partners.

 “This program has given us the opportunity to work with progressive farmers who want to increase their yields,” she said. “It’s a comprehensive program that covers everything from variety selection and improved planting methods to fungicides and insecticide use. During the Challenge, the growers see us

 as partners in their production system.”

 The farmers also seem to be communicating their ideas with other members of the Super 8s team. “These progressive farmers tend to research and communicate successes more in general,” Gehant continued, “and there has been a nice exchange of ideas between other Yield Challenge participants in the same geography. In fact, they have benefitted simply by sharing phone numbers and e-mail addresses.”

Working throughout the State

 Funded by the soybean checkoff, the 2010 Yield Challenge divides Illinois into nine crop reporting districts, with teams of growers in each district working together to implement new methods to produce higher yields. As part of the Challenge, each team farms side-by-side plots using traditional and innovative techniques.  Many companies, universities and FFA chapters are participating in this year’s Challenge. For more information, check