An Aerial View Of A WinField United Answer Plot

From the archives: Farming is evolving, and these living laboratories are just the beginning

We're celebrating 20 years of crop insights, agronomic research and helping farmers feed human progress with the Answer Plot® program

Editor's note: This story was originally published on June 26, 2018. 

Now more than ever, the farming industry is rapidly evolving -- and the need for effective farming technology is increasing. Farmers take on a lot of risk with their harvests each year. From deciding which crops to plant to where to plant them, which products to use and which products to avoid, the list goes on and on. With the world population estimated to reach a staggering 9 billion by the year 2050, world hunger and farmer productivity are at the forefront of our minds.

To improve yields and provide a reliable food supply for a growing global population, farmers need insights and tools to help them make smart decisions and eliminate risk. Enter WinField United. Tackling farmers’ tough challenges is the name of WinField United’s game. That’s why, in 1998, this Land O’Lakes’ subsidiary took its commitment to agronomic excellence up a notch with a groundbreaking idea: the Answer Plot®.

Answer Plot® sites are science-backed “living laboratories” where crops, seeds and technologies are tested and observed by agronomists and farmers. These plots are where WinField United tests products on crops to see which ones work best in different environments and across different crops.

Through the Answer Plot® model, farmers get an objective look at which products will perform better on their individual operations. It helps farmers take some of the guessing out of the decision-making process they face every year.

“Farmers don’t have to take the risk,” says Jamie Leifker, Vice President of Agronomy and Product Development. “We take some of that risk for them by testing the products on our crops first.”

From humble roots to global harvests

Starting with a mere one plot in Iowa in 1998, the Answer Plot® program has grown to nearly 200 locations. Testing 240 corn and 360 soybean products, the results are targeted so farmers can decide which products will perform best on their fields. The program provides more than 6 million data points to WinField United’s ag tech tools, like the R7® Tool. This data gives farmers science-backed insights, making it one of the largest applied agronomic research programs in the nation.

But Answer Plot® sites don’t stop inside American borders. WinField United has shared the tool with Land O’Lakes International Development, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit affiliated with Land O’Lakes, Inc. This nonprofit is implementing projects around the world that are helping to unlock the potential of agriculture. And with that, the Answer Plot® model is a tool that international development projects have used in Kenya, Zambia and Malawi to help farmers address local farming challenges and feed their communities.

As the farming industry continues to move forward, research tools like the Answer Plot® model lead the charge. Steve Anthofer is the head of Answer Plot® operations and sees a bright future ahead for the program.

“We are continuing to evolve,” Anthofer says. “We will spend more of our time developing data to feed into models that accurately predict product performance.” Helping farmers through the Answer Plot® is central to the overall mission of Land O’Lakes, Inc. Feeding Human Progress® is a lofty goal, but with technology such as the Answer Plot® model paving the way, we believe it’s possible. So, here’s to 20 years of helping farmers and communities around the world, but the work has only just begun.