Project Ideas

Practical Farmers members meet annually to determine the focus for on-farm research and demonstration projects for the year ahead.

2014 Project Ideas

Energy Project Ideas

  • Can a farm be energy self-reliant?
  • How much wooded area is needed for sustainable harvesting to supply a woodburning stove?
  • Which species of trees are best to grow for efficient and sustainable harvesting and use in wood-burning stoves?
  • How does the energy use and cost for a farm-built, walk-in cooler using a CoolBot system compare to a commercial cooler of the same size?
  • How can I determine the baseline energy consumption, cost and environmental impact (in terms of CO2 emissions) of my farm?
  • How much energy do the different systems on our farm use?
  • How much energy does our irrigation system use?
  • Which greenhouse energy inputs are most cost-effective for seedling production?

Field Crops Project Ideas

  • What are the economics of conventional tillage versus no-till?
  • What are the economics of a three-year rotation?
  • What are the long-term effects and the nitrogen replacement value of an underseeded red clover legume versus a diverse cover crop mix planted following small grain harvest?
  • What are the best management practices for adding winter rye to a crop rotation?
  • What are the yields of GMO and non-GMO corn hybrids?
  • What is the performance of six-row stripcropped corn or soybeans?
  • What is the performance of neonicotinoidtreated and non-neonicotinoid-treated seed?
  • What is the best way to manage nitrogen in corn following a rye cover crop, considering nitrogen rates and nitrogen stabilizers?
  • Is drilling soybeans into standing rye at anthesis a good method for planting soybeans?
  • What is the effect on cash crop and soil quality of planting winter rye versus a fallseeded oat cover crop preceeding corn?

Horticulture Project Ideas

  • Which perennial living mulches increase pollinator abundance and diversity?
  • What is the yield data for fruit and vegetable farms in Iowa?
  • Does applying compost tea extract to soil improve vegetable quality and yield?
  • Which is best for weed control and product yield for sweet potato and watermelon: plastic mulch, paper mulch or no cover?
  • How do various living cover crops affect broccoli production?
  • Which methods of pest management are most efficient and effective against stink bugs?
  • Can sun hemp be grown for seed production in Iowa?
  • Does tillage practice impact the effect of winter cover crops on cash crops?
  • Which cover crop species have the best weed suppression and biomass growth between spring and fall cash crops?
  • Do organic worm castings improve crop yield?
  • Are pesticides drifting to vegetable farms in Iowa?
  • Does planting cash vegetable crops into a mowed or crimped cover crop increase yield?
  • Does interseeding or overseeding cover crops into a cash crop suppress weeds and increase yield?
  • How is whole-farm income composed on different farms?
  • Does nearby prairie habitat increase the diversity and abundance of pollinators in vegetable crops?

Livestock Project Ideas

  • Can grazing cover crops extend winter cattle feed options without harming subsequent cash crop yield?
  • What are the effects of various grazing management techniques on perennial pastures?
  • Can tall fescue predominance in a pasture be reduced through grazing management?
  • Can perennial pastures be renovated through combinations of high-stock density grazing and interseeding new forage species?
  • What are the benefits of grazing versus haying?
  • What are the economic opportunities and barriers in poultry production?
  • How do two duck breeds compare for dual-purpose (meat and egg) production?
  • Can parasite loads in goats be reduced through grazing management?
  • Is milking once daily better economically and for animal health than milking twice daily?
  • What affects the costs of feeding cows during the winter, and how can the cost be reduced?
  • How can the effects of flies on animal health and performance be measured, and what management or treatment options help reduce fly loads on cattle?
  • What are the effects of apple cider vinegar supplementation for goats?