Deere & Co., ISU launch demonstration farm in Ames
Partnership to allow Deere to experience the same challenges as their customers
AMES — An 80-acre demonstration farm divided into eight fields of corn and soybeans using varying agriculture processes has been established in Ames.
In a partnership between Deere & Company and Iowa State University, the demonstration farm will allow Deere to test sustainable solutions for large-grain production systems in real-world scenarios.
“Farmers are working in constantly changing environments where every decision will impact their end result. To ensure they can feed a growing global population, and do so sustainably, they need to adopt proven practices to produce what’s needed and anticipated. The strategic ISU partnership allows Deere to experience the same uncertainties and challenges as our customers, so we can better serve them with proven, innovative, and sustainable solutions,” said Andy Greenlee, a senior staff engineer at John Deere.
“Additionally, Deere has a longstanding relationship with ISU, which has allowed both parties to translate agronomic sciences to practice through field demonstrations in order to unlock opportunities for farmers and Deere’s customers. This partnership builds on Deere’s Leap Ambitions, which are focused goals designed to boost both economic value and sustainability for customers, ensuring that every hour, every drop, every seed, every pound and every pass counts to optimize their operations,” Greenlee added.
Half the farm will be planted in a corn-soybean rotation, while the other half will be planted in a corn-corn-soy rotation. The testing will use a conventional tillage situation or passes, reduced tillage where more residue is kept on the soil surface, strip till practice where they till only a slight 10-inch band and then no-till with cover crops.
“This partnership will stimulate new innovations that will increase productivity, profitability and environmental stewardship for farmers and Deere’s customers. This partnership is a starting point to evaluate the environmental benefits of different practices at the test farm. It will also open the door to the possibility of greater and broader research in the future,” Greenlee said.
“Physical measurements of key soil and water parameters will help document net sustainability improvements with rapid approximation of soil carbon and soil health. As well as comprehensive yield and profitability benchmarking between the separate production practices.”
Throughout a five-year production cycle, four different crop production systems will be implemented. The data and insights collected will measure crop productivity, economic cost of production, soil health, water quality, carbon intensity and biodiversity.
“As part of testing various sustainable farming scenarios, Deere will document the crop production practices in the operations center — Deere’s cloud-based farm management system to measure crop productivity, the economic cost of production, soil, water quality, carbon intensity and biodiversity. Training demonstrations will also be documented to showcase customer engagement on sustainable practices,” Greenlee said.
All economic aspects of crop production, including machinery costs, input costs and crop yield outputs, will be documented and reported by ISU. A summary of crop production profitability will be reported annually for each production system.
Soil health will be evaluated through standardized processes defined by Deere and ISU jointly.
These may include factors such as soil bulk density, aggregate and macro pore sizes, and soil carbon, among others. Soil health measurements will be replicated in each crop production region as well as in specific landscape zones. Results will be presented based on spatial landscape differences to highlight influences of environmental factors.
“Lysimeters will be installed each year to record nitrate levels. A lysimeter is a tube inserted into the soil, and then water samples are collected from the tube throughout the growing season. Using lysimeters to collect water samples can provide a better understanding of nutrient and water flow below the surface, which can inform field management for environmental protection,” Greenlee said.
Deere will be using its exact emerged planter technology to place the seed at the exact spot within the furrow. They’ll also use auto track guidance technologies to help save fuel and a section control to currently apply the fertilizer at the right rate.
“ISU has a longstanding relationship with John Deere, which has allowed us to translate agronomic sciences to practice through field demonstrations to unlock opportunities for farmers,” added Matt Darr, professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering at ISU. “This new research allows us to test new sustainability solutions, so that farmers can adopt practices they have confidence in.”
The demonstration farm not only will enable Deere and ISU to prove the success of sustainable practices at scale, but it will also provide significant opportunities for educating employees and students, dealer and customer outreach, and equipment demonstrations.