UNL - Testing Ag Performance Solutions (UNL-TAPS)

UNL - Testing Ag Performance Solutions (UNL-TAPS)


A new University of Nebraska-Lincoln led partnership is helping agricultural producers explore emerging technologies and identify ways to strengthen profitability without increasing risk. Organized by Nebraska Extension and the Nebraska Water Balance Alliance, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Testing Ag Performance Solutions (UNL-TAPS) farm management competition involved managing center pivot-irrigated corn located at the West Central Research and Extension Center (WCREC) at North Platte. Seventeen producers squared off against University scientists and two student groups in three categories: most profitable farm, highest input use efficiency, and greatest grain yield. First year results can be downloaded at: https://taps.unl.edu/ .


Participants had to make the following management decisions:

  • Crop Insurance Selection – Choice of yield or revenue protection, optional or enterprise units, level of coverage, hail and wind insurance
  • Seed Selection - Hybrid selection and seeding rate
  • Nitrogen Application – Could apply through pre-plant, sidedress, and fertigation options
  • Irrigation Application – Could apply up to 1” twice a week
  • Marketing – Marketed grain through several marketing tools for a 3,000 acre corn farm


Participants could view data provided by a capacitance probe, aerial imagery (visual and thermal), weather station, and an eddy covariance system providing hourly evapo-transpiration data. In addition, data was collected on each plot for soil water status, leaf and grain nitrogen, soil properties, and canopy temperature and reflectance. These data will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the ag industry tools, products, and/or services to improve water and nitrogen use efficiency and ultimately farm profitability.


Participants made a wide range of management decisions in each of the five areas. For instance, insurance costs ranged from $0 to $107 per acre. There were 9 different hybrids planted in the competition with seeding rates ranging from 28,000 to 34,500 seeds per acre. Nitrogen rates ranged from 145 to 240 lbs per acre and irrigation application ranged from 2.5” to 10.8”.


As a result, overall farm profitability ranged from a positive $147 per acre to a loss of $149 per acre. Most of the variation in profitability was due to marketing strategies, with a lesser impact of cost of production. Tim Schmeeckly from Gothenburg won the Greatest Grain Yield award and the Highest Input Use Efficiency award. Roric Paulman from Sutherland received the award for Most Profitable Farm.


For the 2018 growing season, TAPS will host three Farm Management Competitions at WCREC in North Platte, corn under sprinkler irrigation, corn with subsurface drip irrigation and grain sorghum under sprinkler irrigation. All competitions will include UNL scientists, farmers and state and local agency teams. The program will also look at additional tools and techniques offered by the ag industry to make irrigated crop production more profitable and more water and nitrogen efficient.


Chuck Burr

Nebraska Extension Educator



Daran Rudnick, PhD

Irrigation Management Specialist



Matt Stockton, PhD

Agricultural Economist



This article was reviewed by Aaron Nygren & Troy Ingram

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