Published Sep 2, 2011

What we learned about Corn, Soybeans, Canola and more

By Sarah Carlson

15 people came out to hear results from on-farm research that Paul Mugge, farmer near Sutherland, IA has conducted and participated in over the past 3 years. Paul’s farm and his neighbors have been part of two studies comparing organic and conventionally managed soils and the amount of Entomopathogenic fungi, soil quality and water infiltration rates. Eric Clifton, graduate student from ISU presented about preliminary data results he had from his study comparing fungi and nematode levels between corn and soybean conventional soils and multi-crop organic soils. Eric took soil samples from 10 farms this summer and then ran tests to see what amounts of each critter were present in the soils. The higher the number and diversity of the fungi, nematodes and ? the better the control of pest and disease outbreaks. Many of the “critters” Eric measured will parasitize—meaning enter the body of a “pest” and live in it and kill it. Parasitizing is a way for the good critters to survive and also keep the bad critters in the check and therefore avoid outbreaks. For more information send Eric an email at

PFI staffer Sarah Carlson presented about results from the first year of our “resiliency” study. To read more about the soil quality and water infiltration differences between farming systems across Iowa click on these two studies:

Comparison of Steady State Water Infiltration Rates Among Farming Systems (2010)

Soil Quality Indicators among Different Farming Systems (2010)

Next we traveled out to the field to look at two more trials that Paul has done on his farm: Aphid Resistant versus Susceptible Soybean and Which small grain or brassica helps improve the income on a three year rotation?

Stefans Gailans, a graduate student at ISU was on hand to present about research with small grains and canola that he has done with Paul on his farm and also at 2 other locations in Iowa. Paul has tried many different types of winter and spring small grains, winter and spring canola and flax to help fill the third year of the organic rotation. He underseeds all crops with red clover to provide nitrogen to his next year’s corn. Paul is committed to his longer rotation but still works to improve the profitability of the third year. To learn more about results from Stefans research email him at


Finally we visited Paul’s Aphid Resistant versus Susceptible Soybean trial. Paul is testing the IA 3027 bean that has the RAG1 gene bred into it under classically breeding techniques. This gene, RAG1, proved to have lower populations on beans with the gene than those without. In addition, from results from 5 farms who had side-by-side comparisons the Aphid Resistant beans in a low aphid pressure year (2010) only yields 2.5 bushels less than the susceptible variety. In 2011, we see much higher aphid pressure. Paul will take yields of this plots this fall to see if the beans response to higher aphid population. Organic farmers do not have a method for killing aphids once an outbreak occurs. Conventional farmers can spray an insecticide but sometimes that insecticide will kill favorble insects, like the ladybug that consume aphids in great numbers. To see results from last year’s study click here: Aphid Resistant (AR) Versus Susceptible (SC) Soybeans (2010). The day ended with root beer floats and cookies. A sweet treat on a beautiful day.