At the end of April, I had the opportunity to go to Eastern Nebraska Research, Extension, and Education Center (ENREEC) near Mead to plant soybeans for the TAPS competition. Many of you may not know what TAPS is. TAPS stands for Testing Agricultural Performance Solutions. It is a unique farm management competition that was created in 2017 by a team of researchers, extension specialists, and educators at UNL’s West Central Research, Extension, and Education Center.

The competitions operate like real-life research projects, with each team given four randomized plots within the same field, totaling approximately one-half of an acre. Teams can make specific management decisions, such as choosing crop insurance, variety type, seeding rate, fertilizer management, grain marketing and more. These choices are made through a secure online portal. University staff then implement these decisions in the field. The yield and cost from each farm are scaled to represent 1,500 acres of production, as this provides opportunity to market an amount of grain that is more representative of a modern farm size. Since everyone is farming in real time in the same field with the same weather conditions and marketing opportunities, the results are strictly the result of individual choices and decisions.

What are the participants competing for? The competition has three awards: 1) most profitable 2) efficiency of nitrogen and water use 3) highest grain yield, emphasizing a focus on profit and efficiency rather than just yield like traditional contests. The most economically profitable team is awarded $1500, highest input use efficiency receives a cash prize of $1500 and the highest grain yield team receives $500, based upon how profitable the team was.

The competition started as a sprinkler corn farm management competition with 15 teams in the first year at the West Central Lab in North Platte, Nebraska. It has grown tremendously since then, expanding to seven competitions: five in Nebraska, one in Oklahoma and one in Colorado with over 200 participants last year. Who are these participants? They vary from mostly farmers to university teams, stakeholders, government agencies, ag instructors, seed sales representatives, as well as high school students. Basically, it can be anyone who is interested in learning more about crop production and marketing.

The 2024 UNL-TAPS consists of four competitions in Nebraska- sprinkler irrigated corn, continuous corn, irrigated sorghum and soybeans. A team can be an individual or a group of people. This is the first year for irrigated soybeans in Eastern Nebraska. The plots are located at ENREEC near Mead with 18 teams. I am part of one of these teams, along with four water and cropping systems educators and one agricultural economics educator. 

Each individual/team receives a confidential farm number needed to access the team specific website. Each farm’s decision and farm specific information will be kept confidential until the season’s end and only be available to authorized team members and TAPS personnel. In-season tours and meetings will occur at ENREEC and other locations this summer for sharing updates and interacting with multiple stakeholders and industry representatives.

The main goal of TAPS is to promote profitability and efficiency in crop production. It provides the opportunity to test new methods and products and build a peer-to-peer network. Some of this technology includes using satellite imagery, weather station data, soil and water monitoring, and plant sensing. You can visit to learn more about this program or contact your local extension educator.

Ritika Lamichhane
Extension Educator
Nemaha County
May 2024