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Farmers get peak at corn-soybean effort

Dollars will be spent to improve grain yields

By Jean Caspers-Simmet

simmet@agrinews.com

NASHUA, Iowa -- Farmers got a sneak preview of Iowa State University's Corn-Soybean Initiative at last week's annual meeting of the Northeast Iowa Agricultural Experimental Association.

The project will target dollars to projects that improve corn and soybean yields.

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"This is a special project identified and earmarked to help corn and soybean producers increase profitability in the short term,'' said project director Greg Tylka, Iowa State University Extension nematologist. "We're not saying other things aren't important and that ISU isn't going to work on other aspects of agriculture, but we're looking at what we can do to raise corn and soybean yields and make you as individual growers more profitable.''

Holding up a bright yellow Lunchable of crackers, meat, cheese and candy, Tylka asked why people will pay $2.89 for $1.40 worth of food.

"They do it because it's complete, convenient, coordinated and well marketed, and that's what ISU wants the Corn-Soybean Initiative to be,'' Tylka said. "We're not saying we're going to charge more for what you get, we're saying that we want to give you added value because you aren't going to have to hunt and peck for the information you want.''

Tylka said the Corn-Soybean Initiative will be ISU's "Lunchable.''

"We'll take all the research we have going for corn and soybeans, put them in a tray and then we'll look for gaps,'' he said. "When Lunchables first came out they didn't have sweets, but they found people liked to have some candy with their lunch. We'll look for those gaps. We'll also anticipate future needs. Lunchables may have to develop a product that includes soy milk and broccoli for the health conscious. We'll be looking at what we can do in the future, too.''

On the Extension side, the initiative will become a one-stop shop for all things corn and soybeans. Academic departments, research, programs and supporting services will be drawn together into one package.

Research farms like the one in Nashua owned by the Northeast Iowa Agricultural Experimental Association will play a key role.

"The research farms provide local information,'' Tylka said. "I see the research farms as Extension education and research centers. They will be a very important part of this process.''

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Tylka is asking each of the outlying research farms to pick an area they'd like to focus on for two to four years, an area where resources and emphasis can be devoted.

"I want you to pick something that is really important to your growers,'' Tylka said. "I'm suggesting that you pick ways to tweak management to optimize corn and soybean yield. You don't have to pick that area. You can pick pest management, fertility, water quality or whatever you want."

"This is about doing a better job for corn and soybean growers,'' Tylka said. "

Tylka said the Corn-Soybean Initiative will be launched publicly by May.

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