By: Kristin Poley, Research Manager, Corn Marketing Program of Michigan
As a researcher, my daily activities revolve around the collection, management, and analysis of data. Simply put, data is information that we can use to inform decisions and, ultimately, to improve profitability. On the farm, we can collect data in many different areas and for different reasons: we collect soil data to help make nutrient management decisions, we collect agronomic data to determine crop health and action thresholds, and we collect farm management data to summarize economic impacts and opportunities.
Maintaining a dataset over time allows farmers and advisors to track change and benchmarks year over year. As technology advances, farmers have more and more data available to them related to all aspects of the business. Things like GPS and aerial imagery that were once only available to certain operations are now more readily available to farmers and advisors.
The Corn Marketing Program of Michigan emphasizes data collection in multiple ways. Through our contract grant program, we annually fund research that is important to corn growers across the state in areas such as production, market development and sustainability. Most recently, CMPM has contributed to the expansion of the Soil Health Partnership (SHP) into Michigan. SHP is a network of more than 200 farmer-led research trials across the country focusing on the implementation of sustainable agriculture practices such as cover crops, reduced tillage, and nutrient management. On each trial site, agronomic and economic data is collected at multiple time points throughout the enrollment of the site. This data is summarized and distributed to farmers in that region and across the network. The hope then, is that farmers will then take those results and use them to inform their own management practices.
Also beginning in 2020, CMPM has formed a new partnership with Mid-Michigan Agronomy that will focus on data collection as it relates to soil health. 2020 is the beginning of a small-plot research trial examining the relationship between cover crops and soil health. The goal of this work is to investigate the effect of cover crops and biological additives on soil health in a corn-soybean-wheat rotation over five years. Ideally, this work will be scaled up and investigated on working farms in future years. Rob Schafer, founder of Mid-Michigan Agronomy explained why he is invested in this research: "Trial work is important because it stems from grower input which allows us to remain grower-focused, providing the opportunity to solve current and future issues in their fields.” On the newly formed partnership, he added: "We are excited to work with CMPM for the opportunity to look at soil health as it relates to growing corn in Michigan and the Midwest.”
Whether your data collection journey is just beginning, or you have 30 years of on-farm data, share with us some tips on how you manage and use your dataset. Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like more information or if you have ideas about data collection that CMPM can be a part of in the future.