SRVP Boosts Farmers' Profitability

by C. Richard Maples
Extension Specialist - Agricultural Communications

In theory, the purpose of every Cooperative Extension Service and Agricultural Experiment Station crop project is to help farmers become more profitable.

In practice, no program has done more to show the soybean growers of Arkansas how to increase their yields and minimize their production costs than the Soybean Research Verification Program (SRVP) being conducted by the Extension Service.

The Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board began funding the SRVP, on a trial basis, in 1983. An advisory committee consisting of Experiment Station researchers and Extension specialists was formed to prepare production plans for each field and to serve as problem solvers during the growing season.

An Extension SRVP coordinator was appointed to work closely with county agents and the cooperating farmers.

Since the pilot program, which involved four farms, SRVP trials have been conducted on 207 fields across the state.

Then, as now, the concept behind the program is to have the program coordinator, county agent and farmer work together to manage a soybean field. From variety selection to harvest, the SRVP team provides the farmer with timely, research-based recommendations.

During the growing season, the SRVP team visits the field each week and meets with the farmer. The farmers then implement the recommended production practices at their expense.

Has the SRVP concept worked? Extension economist Dr. Tony Windham says, "The average yield for the 97 full season, irrigated fields in the verification program between 1984 and 1994 was 45 bushels per acre, compared to a statewide average of about 32 bushels for irrigated soybeans.

"Over those 11 years, yields for the SRVP fields trended upward, and so did the farmers' gross income. At the same time, their total costs, which include operating and include depreciation on equipment, interest on investment and taxes.)

"If your yields are trending up and your costs are trending down, your net income is going to trend up as well," says Windham.

The same trends that occurred with the 97 full season, irrigated fields - upward yields, downward costs - have occurred with 24 full season, dryland flelds and 38 doublecropped, irrigated fields in the verification program.

Windham says one of the major reasons for the decrease in operating and ownership costs is the verification program's emphasis on reducing tillage trips.

All soybean farmers have benefitted from the Soybean Verification Program, not just those with SRVP fields.

"If you're putting equipment in the field less often, you're spending less on fuel, labor and maintenance. If you can get by with less equipment, you can lower your ownership costs." Extension soybean specialist Dr. Lanny

"One benefit of the program has been the development and adoption of production systems for early season, Maturity Group IV, soybeans," notes Ashlock.

'Work with early season varieties began in 1988, when the Soybean Promotion Board began funding research to help dryland producers. Now we see early Group IVs being grown statewide. Some are planted early and some are planted conventionally.

"They've performed well with irrigation, and they've performed well when we've gotten rain."

The research verification program has served as a proving ground for several other technological advances, including computerized irrigation sched uling, establishment of disease ratings for all varieties marketed in Arkansas, and reduced rate herbicide applications.

'We have the best soybean weed control program in the nation," says Ashlock. "A lot of the credit has to go to weed scientists Dr. Ford Baldwin and Dr. Dick Oliver. They've developed the reduced rate technology."

Refinements made in Cooperative Extension Service recommendations as a result of the Soybean Research Verification Program have helped farmers reduce their risks in both wet and dry years.

"Last year, when we had a record crop, the weather was almost identical to that of 1989," notes Ashlock. "But in 1989, diseases just ruined us. We didn't take advantage of the moisture to make a crop.

"In 1995, we took it on the chin from th~e drought, but we still averaged about 25 bushels per acre - much better than the 18bushel yield of 1980.

"During the past two seasons, we've had our technology in place. We were able to take advantage of the good season in 1994, and cope with very tough conditions in '95.

"I'm convinced that Arkansas soybean production would have been reduced by at least 15 million bushels per year without the r projects funded by the Soybean Promotion Board, such as the Soybean Research Verification Program.

"Those 15 million bushels translate into an annual increase in gross income of at least $90 million for Arkansas soybean producers."

Contents | From the Chairman | Soybeans' versatility | Checkoff money wise investment | Improving dryland yields | SRVP helps young farmers | SRVP boosting profits | Improving drought tolerance | Reduced rate weed control | Roundup-ready soybeans | Disease control | Soyink | Computer irrigation scheduling | SOYVA | Early maturing varieties