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Checkoff funding picks up tab (Editorial)

As combines move up and down Mid-Atlantic fields this harvest season, the flood of data from yield monitors, check strips and test plots begins to flow for next year’s decision making.
A part of that local information are the variety trials from area Land Grant universities.
As research, it doesn’t make headlines with novel breakthroughs but its value to those who use it is immense and without farmer-led funding from checkoff boards, those trials would be challenging, if not impossible, to continue.
Combined with entry fees for seed companies to have their varieties trialed, checkoff funding has been able to up the tab on a lot of the costs most other grant funders would not.
Things like purchasing equipment, repairs and maintenance and technician salary are make-or-break issues for field research and generally not included in what larger grant organizations will cover.
Run by farmers, checkoff boards know equipment and its importance in being maintained.
They know it takes people to do the work and those people need compensated.
And what’s not spent goes back to the board to be reallocated. It’s that type of flexibility that is crucial for conducting in-field applied research.
The university trials give area farmers unbiased data on how many of the corn and soybean hybrids they have to choose from perform in multiple locations with different soil types, weather conditions and planting dates.
Growers can also evaluate seed options’ stability through their relative yield across all the sites in a trial, revealing which ones shine under several growing conditions.
The importance goes beyond variety trials, extending to any project that aims to get a better handle on a production problem faced by local growers, from pests to disease to changes in cultural practices.
In the grand scheme, when billions go toward climate change mitigation, water quality improvement and the aura of sustainability, the checkoff projects may not seem like a lot of money.
For example, this year’s funding for research from the New Jersey Soybean Board was a mere $23,500.
But even if it is small, its impact should not to be overlooked.