In autumn of 2012, Craig Dick and I began discussing a Calcium Products research agronomist and manager of research & development (R&D). I was thrilled at the idea and gladly accepted the position a few months ago.
I completed my Ph.D. at Iowa State University in May 2012 in horticulture, with a research specialization in turfgrass science. I know that may not equate into corn and soybean agronomy at first glance, but one of the purposes of obtaining a Ph.D. is to show you have learned how to subjectively think about problems and use the scientific method via research to answer them. Although my concentration was in the turf world, I have a well-rounded education that can be applied to any area of plant science. I started part-time with CPI in October while finishing my post-doc work at ISU and started full-time January 1. We have been busy exploring new avenues and expanding existing ones for research and development opportunities.
On-farm strip trials are one area we are exploring. CPI has been doing these for quite a few years, and the idea is to increase product awareness by putting it into the hands of the farmer through our Prove-It program. Sometimes the dialogue between scientist and farmer gets lost in translation; when a farmer talks to another farmer about what worked it's very effective. What better way to spread the message of soil health than through our customers? We put the power in your hands to realize how our products can help your bottom line. We are looking to involve as many farmers and co-ops as possible into our Prove-It program, as well as the Iowa Soybean Association's On-Farm Network, which has been a great cooperative venture we hope to expand in the future.
University research is another area we are starting to increase R&D efforts. CPI has been involved with this in the past, however, cooperating with universities is often a tedious process and can involve considerable cost depending on the intensity of the experiment. We have identified key areas in soil science that involve our products in need of up-to-date research and information. It is our goal to help drive the science to answer these questions and increase the available knowledge base in these areas.
We are also increasing our in-house research efforts. This is where the 'D' of R&D comes in; we are always aiming to improve the physical characteristics of our products to ultimately benefit the end user. We do not simply manufacture a product in the cheapest and easiest way and sell it. On the contrary, we put considerable time, research and money into producing the best product available so we can help growers improve their soils. Beyond the 'D,' we are also looking at small-scale trials with different coatings for our pellets to expand into different agricultural and horticultural markets. Further, we are conducting small-scale experiments on different crops with our existing products to determine what benefits we can offer growers beyond the corn/soybean and turf markets.
Finally, we are always interested in knowing what problems and/or questions growers have for us. Often, these interactions with growers are what spawn new product ideas and research. So, please do not hesitate to contact anyone in the company if you have an idea for a research project or need a question answered about how any of our products work!