The second year of competition for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Testing Ag Performance Solutions (TAPS) program is in the books and surprise, the most profitable team in the corn competition was a group of employees with the Nebraska Dept. of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Teams participating made decisions on six parameters in producing and marketing corn: irrigation management; nitrogen management; hybrid selection; seeding rate; grain marketing; and, crop insurance. The decisions were applied to test plots at the North Platte extension center. Twenty-eight teams made up of producers, university personnel, state agency personnel, and private agricultural businesses competed with 20 teams managing corn plots and 8 teams managing sorghum plots. Awards were given for most profitable, most efficient, and highest yield.

Farm profitability (crop revenue minus input costs) for corn ranged from $134.42 per acre to $279.61 per acre with all teams showing a profit. In 2017, only a few teams showed a profit. For the second year in a row, the team with the number 13 earned the greatest profit—the number must be the lucky for the TAPS competition. In 2018, Team 13 wasn’t the highest yielding team, nor the lowest cost (although its costs were in the lower ranges), however, it ranked second in efficiency and its marketing prowess, it had the highest average market value, secured the win.

Like 2017, the winning team in 2018 balanced cost control, input efficiency, productivity, and marketing to become the most profitable. The results suggest that profitable farms need to monitor and manage all four areas for the greatest success. So, congrats to the DEQ team of Sam Radford, Carla McCullough, Katie Pekarek, Laura Johnson and others from the water quality program. Radford commented the competition was a great learning experience that has changed the way they will engage producers and develop projects in the future. And, perhaps the reverse can be true too—agriculture can learn something from the state agency personnel.