There’s a popular concept that gets passed around on social media that says people remember:

  • 10% of what we read
  • 20% of what we hear
  • 30% of what we see
  • 50% of what we see and hear
  • 70% of what we discuss with others
  • 80% of what we personally experience
  • 95% of what we teach others

While I very much doubt the accuracy of the percentages presented, and the list raises all sorts of questions, the point of the message — that we tend to more get more out of those things that we do or that we teach to others — rings true to me. And it underscores the importance of doing on-farm research to learn and understand the complex interactions that take place every day on the farm.

It can be tempting to take university or industry data as the final word on when to plant a certain crop or how different species interact when planted together or in succession. But on-farm experiments will generally provide more accurate insights for your operation and they don’t have to be done on a massive scale to be useful.

In our Summer 2021 issue, we wrote about Ryan Nell, a strip-tiller in Beaver Dam, Wis., whose on-farm experimentation led him to do some soybean row spacing trials in the early spring of this year. 

On March 22, he planted soybeans in seven different configurations: 15-inch, 30-inch, 45-inch, 60-inch, twin 30s/8 (8 inches apart on 30-inch centers), twin 60s/8 (8 inches apart on 60-inch centers), and twin 60s/20 (20 inches apart on 60-inch centers). 

The soybeans were all planted into ground where corn silage had been grown followed by cereal rye seeded on Sept. 25, 2020, and terminated on April 27, 2021. Each pass was 0.72 acres planted at a rate of 100,000 seeds per acre. Ryan used Jung’s 1262R2X soybean, which is a 2.6 maturity group bean with an 83 bushel-per acre average yield in a 2020 University of Wisconsin soybean trial.

When he harvested on October 18, 2021, Ryan’s per acre yields were as follows:

  • Twin 30s    94.9 bu.
  • 30-inch rows    93.9 bu.
  • Twin 60-20    93.3 bu.
  • 15-inch rows    91.7 bu.
  • Twin 60s    88.5 bu.
  • 45-inch rows    87.6 bu.
  • 60-inch rows    77.2 bu.
  • Plot average    89.6 bu.

Ryan says he doesn’t intend to make any specific changes to his operation as a result of this trial — he was just curious how row spacing would affect yields in his early-planted soybean system. 

“It’s important to always try new things,” Ryan says. “I may not really use this data to change anything, but maybe someone will see it, try a variation or introduce more covers to it.”

We salute Ryan and all the other strip-tillers out there who are trying new things to push the practice forward. Megan Wallendal is another one who believes in on-farm testing, even when those trials don’t work out. It’s inspiring to learn about the experiments and crazy ideas that farmers are putting into practice every season. 

Keep sharing those outcomes with us — and each other.