Farmer-led, conservation-minded research returns

The Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) launched the third year of the Innovation Grant Program, investing in 12 farmer-led research projects focused on preventing nitrogen loss. Each accepted proposal focuses on innovative solutions to prevent the loss of nitrogen to ground and surface water, keeping the nutrient in the soil.

Working with the Minnesota Corn Research & Promotion Council, MCGA announced the Innovation Grant Program in 2016 as part of its goal to make Minnesota corn farmers the most sustainable and environmentally responsible in the United States. To date, the program has invested nearly $400,000 in 40 farmer-led research projects bringing novel solutions to prevent nitrogen loss on the farm.

“The Innovation Grant Program has been a great avenue for the many Minnesota corn farmers who have a great idea to better manage nitrogen and reduce loss, but lack the necessary funds to truly put it to the test,” said Dr. Paul Meints, senior research director for the MCGA. “I continue to be impressed with the level of innovation brought to each project by our corn growers, and this year’s group is no different.”

Examples from this year’s participants include novel approaches to cover crop systems, new approaches to nitrogen application, the evaluation of variable-rate nitrogen programs and more. One example is Matt Alford from Blue Earth in Faribault County. To better prevent erosion and increase nitrogen uptake in his soil, Alford is incorporating cover crops on his farm. His project is focused on finding an efficient method to effectively plant cover crops while limiting the extra expense and time. This summer, he will be testing a new system to seed cover crops while applying in-season nitrogen. If successful, Alford will reap the many benefits of cover crops without extra passes in the field.

Corn farmers in Minnesota support about $4 million every year through respected research institutions like the University of Minnesota to address issues that corn farmers are facing every day.  The Innovation Grant Program allows farmers to put their own ideas to the test and examine how other farmers in Minnesota might be able to replicate that idea on their farm. Reviewed by MCGA and Minnesota Corn Research & Promotion Council, proposals were accepted through Dec. 15, 2017, for the 2018 crop season.

For more information on research funded by Minnesota’s corn organizations, visit

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