Tri-Basin NRD Producers Win TAPS Awards

Tri-Basin Water Watchers Team

Tri-Basin NRD Producers Win TAPS Awards

Producers from the Tri-Basin Natural Resources District earned top awards in the 2020 Testing Ag Performance Solutions (TAPS) program in the sprinkler sorghum and subsurface drip irrigated (SDI) corn competitions.

Scott Jewett, of Holdrege, won the award for Highest Input Use Efficiency and Marc Rasmussen, of Cambridge, won the Greatest Grain Yield award in the sorghum competition.

The Tri-Basin Water Watchers earned the Highest Input Use Efficiency award in the SDI corn contest. Members of this team included Chris Ecklun, Reed Philips, Pat Nott, Curtis Scheele, and Rick Reinsch.

The TAPS program is an interactive farm management competition bringing together scientists, producers, industry professionals, students and more to promote efficiency and profitability. The competition, developed by University of Nebraska research and extension specialists and educators, just completed its fourth year and is preparing to begin its fifth year. Rather than a typical learning environment, participants interact in real life farm management competitions administered in North Platte, NE at the West Central Research, Extension and Education Center.

The program, which started with just sprinkler irrigated corn has expanded to include a subsurface drip irrigated (SDI) corn competition and a sprinkler sorghum competition. There were 55 teams, with over 140 participants from across Nebraska, as well as from Colorado and Kansas, this year.

Each team was randomly assigned a set of three experiment sized plots, totaling about one half of an acre. The sorghum and SDI corn yields and costs from each “farm” were amplified to 1,000 harvested acres to be more representative of a modern farm size. Participants had control over six parameters: irrigation management, nitrogen management, hybrid selection, seeding rate, grain marketing and crop insurance. To learn about the decisions made and their outcomes please visit the TAPS website.

The 2020 competitions concluded with a virtual awards ceremony in mid-January, where the awards were announced for the top “farms” in three categories including greatest grain yield, highest input use efficiency and the most profitable farm for each competition.

This was the first year participating in the TAPS program for Jewett and Rasmussen and the second year for the Tri-Basin Water Watchers.

Jewett used the TAPS opportunity to not only use some of his original methods, but also to try new things such as fertigation. He said he enjoyed competing against the other contestants and was surprised that he finished so high.

Rasmussen said he would recommend the TAPS program as it is a great way to “find tune your management skills”. He appreciated the spreadsheet that tracked all of the decisions as they were made and “showed the dollars spent”.

Scheele’s job working for the Natural Resources Conservation Service is to “help educate producers in the wise use of irrigation water management and nutrient management” as he explained it.  “So I love the ability to be able to try it ourselves” using the TAPS program he added. “To be able to push input limits that one wouldn’t normally do on their real livelihood farm, to be able to try new technology without your own expense of doing it, to see how you compare with others and their management strategies, to see how your TAPS field compared against your own farm, I mean, what an education tool,” Scheele concluded.

The 2021 program will kick off the end of March and will feature the sprinkler irrigated and SDI corn contests as well as a sorghum competition. Anyone interested in participating in the 2021 TAPS competitions can email Krystle Rhoades, TAPS Program Manager, at

Krystle Rhoades, Program Manager, UNL TAPS


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