February 9, 2006

in this issue
  • Join the BMP CHALLENGE!
  • BMP CHALLENGE- Good Match For Corn Growers Concerned About New Practices
  • Reduced Tillage BMP CHALLENGE – How Much Can You Save?
  • Control Corn Rootworm the IPM Way — Sign on to the Corn Rootworm IPM CHALLENGE

  • BMP CHALLENGE- Good Match For Corn Growers Concerned About New Practices

    American Farmland Trust (AFT) conducted a survey of Midwest corn farmers centered on current practices, attitudes and decision-making. The survey found 42% of respondents want proof of performance to change their current practices. Interestingly, 80% would reduce their fertilizer application rates if a program were available to compensate them for any yield loss.

    The new BMP CHALLENGE, formerly called the BMP Performance Guarantee Program, is now available to corn farmers. The program compensates farmers for any yield loss incurred when farmers implement fertilizer BMPs, reduce tillage, or implement corn rootworm IPM.

    Fertilizer Best Management Practices (BMPs) are the results of years of scientific research aimed at reducing input costs and nutrient use to obtain optimum returns over time. Occasionally, BMPs can result in lower yields than conventional practices – though these shortfalls are made up by reduced annual input costs and comparable yields over time.

    The survey was commissioned to attain useful information in order to target outreach efforts for the BMP CHALLENGE. Surveys were mailed to 10,000 Midwest corn farmers. The first 500 responses were analyzed. Sixty-three percent of respondents were over 50 years old; 54% had been farming for over 30 years. Almost all, 98 %, had at least a high school diploma. On average participants reported planting 373 acres of corn, 327 acres of soybeans and 146 acres of other crops.

    The survey found 89% of respondents are concerned about potential harm to the environment from over-application of fertilizer. The same number would like the public to know about farmers’ efforts to protect the environment.

    The fertilizer BMP CHALLENGE is set-up to use each state’s university recommendation for nutrient applications. Survey results indicate that one-half of the respondents believe their fertilizer application rates are the same as university recommendations, whereas one-third believe their rates are lower. Fifty-four percent have reduced their fertilizer applications over the past five years – 18% have reduced rates by 15% or more.

    The majority of respondents do not use advanced strategies to determine fertilizer application rates. Thirty-three percent use variable rate application for nutrients, 37% use banded applications of fertilizer and 12% use in-season testing such as pre-side dress or late-season nitrogen testing. Eighty-four percent reported reducing rates to account for nitrogen credits in corn following soybeans, and 75% reduce fertilizer to account for nutrients in manure.

    Overall, the survey results have led to a better understanding of potential participants in the BMP CHALLENGE and will help structure the approach to promoting the program.

    The survey was conducted in November 2005 by Strategic Marketing Services at the University of Northern Iowa under a grant from the Great Lakes Protection Fund to AFT.

    Reduced Tillage BMP CHALLENGE – How Much Can You Save?

    The Reduced Tillage BMP CHALLENGE is designed to protect farmers from income loss while they learn how best to reduce tillage in their corn crop rotations. Working with a crop advisor, the grower will select and implement the best reduced tillage system for his or her location. Farmers will compare yield at harvest versus a conventionally tilled check strip, and receive compensation if net income declines.

    Reducing tillage can pay big dividends in lower fuel and equipment costs, and save valuable time. A new USDA-developed website provides a calculator for savings in diesel use and production cost simply by entering a zip code and the number of acres in key row crops.

    For example, a grower in Southern Wisconsin growing 300 acres of corn and 300 acres of soybeans, the calculator reports 990 gallons saved for ridge-till, and 1566 gallons saved for no-till. At today’s fuel prices, those are big dollars to add to the bottom line.

    To see the calculator in action, visit

    For more information about the Reduced Tillage BMP CHALLENGE, see, or contact Regina Hirsch, (608) 873-8393, cell (608) 335-7755, or email to

    Control Corn Rootworm the IPM Way — Sign on to the Corn Rootworm IPM CHALLENGE

    Corn farmers who scouted their fields last year and found they were under threshold may feel uncomfortable leaving those fields untreated this year. The Corn Rootworm IPM CHALLENGE is a great way for farmers to safely manage corn rootworm, as well as save money in the process.

    Under a USDA North Central IPM Center grant, American Farmland Trust and Agren, Inc. are looking for corn fields scouted in 2005. In fields under threshold, CHALLENGE growers will set up a check strip treated with a soil insecticide or planted to a GMO rootworm hybrid of the same genetics as the rest of the field. They’ll also compare check strip yield at harvest against the untreated balance of the field.

    If the grower’s net income declines on the untreated portion of the field, the CHALLENGE program provides compensation to make up the difference.

    For more information, contact Stan Buman at Agren, Inc., in Carroll, Iowa at 712 792-6248 or email to

    Join the BMP CHALLENGE!

    How would you like an opportunity to try money-saving practices, risk-free? Or offer guaranteed BMP performance to farmers you work with?

    The BMP CHALLENGE protects farmers’ incomes while they get comfortable with Best Management Practices (BMPs). Using a side-by-side comparison, the CHALLENGE provides a first-hand, guaranteed opportunity to see how BMPs perform. If yields and net income decline, the CHALLENGE compensates the farmer.

    For example, university-recommended fertilizer rates are guaranteed under the Nutrient BMP CHALLENGE. In this program, the farmer works with a crop advisor to develop a nutrient management plan and set out a check strip in the field. The check strip receives the farmer’s traditional fertilizer rates. The rest of the field gets the lower BMP rate.

    At harvest, the farmer and crop advisor assess yield and calculate fertilizer savings. If the farmer’s net income declines (yield shortfall minus fertilizer savings), the CHALLENGE compensates the farmer.

    The CHALLENGE is also available for trying out conservation tillage and corn rootworm IPM. The program is supported by grants from USDA NRCS, private foundations and contributions from participating farmers. More information about all these programs can be found at

    Visit BMP CHALLENGE Partners...

    American Farmland Trust



    IPM Institute of North America, Inc.

    Thanks to USDA ARS for images

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