Seed World

IPSA Field Trials Give Members an Edge in the Industry

The association provides members with quality, independent information on seed treatment, biologicals and enhancements through the IPSA Field Trials.

Established in 1989 by seed producers who identified the need for independent seed company representation, the Independent Professional Seed Association (IPSA) was formed to promote the interests of family-owned companies. Now the association tackles research and biotechnology issues, enhancing the industry’s media presence to keep members in the loop of an ever-changing and increasingly competitive business climate.

One initiative the association has employed to make this possible are the IPSA Field Trials. More than 15 years ago, members expressed the desire for independently verified and owned data. Launched in 2013, the field trials answered that demand, as IPSA wanted to ensure that seed companies had access to independent information pertaining to seed treatment, seed biologicals and seed enhancements for corn and soybeans. The program has now refocused to improve data type and quality, according to Cat Frans, executive director for IPSA, in an interview with Seed World

“We give companies a direct platform to meet and talk to the regular members of IPSA — the independent seed companies,” she says. “We highly encourage these companies to become members to build great relationships with the current IPSA members. They are able to showcase their newest technology to a group of companies that will quickly deploy it as soon as they understand the benefits to farmers.”

The field trials are just another piece of the puzzle that guides members of the association to success. Since the program was established, IPSA has conducted hundreds of trials. To date, the program has been consistently rated as one of the most crucial member services provided by IPSA.

“We want to make sure that we always have the highest quality and highest integrity in our data,” says Frans.

The trials are tested in two separate regions: the northern Corn Belt and the central Corn Belt, with each region containing 12 locations. When a participant of the trials commits to a region, their product will be tested at all 12 of the locations. North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan fall under the northern region, while Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio belong to the southern region. Each location accepts three replications for each treatment submitted.

Conducted once per year, the trials include early season notes that feature vigor, emergence and end-of-season yield. Two specific hybrids are utilized for all treatments that are submitted for the trial.

“This provides consistency and assures there is no genetic interaction to confuse the resulting data,” explains Frans.

IPSA has the capability to treat a wide range of products, so the association prefers participants to send in the treatment and application protocols. If a member would rather treat the seed themself, IPSA will arrange for the seed to be delivered so it can be treated and then sent back to the association.

“The rest is up to us.  We will package and distribute to our testing locations throughout the Midwest and prepare for planting,” she adds.

Teamwork Makes the Field Trial Dream Work

To run the field trials like the well-oiled machine it has become, IPSA has entered a long-term, strategic partnership with Gro Alliance, a long-standing member of the association. The collaboration will go into effect beginning in the 2023 growing season. 

“Gro Alliance is a family-owned, independent company just like the IPSA members. We understand the challenge that companies face in trying to differentiate their businesses and find margin opportunity,” says Jim Schweigert, president of Gro Alliance. “By partnering with IPSA on the Field Trial Program, we will help expand the products that IPSA members can evaluate. Also, we will coordinate with professional testing organizations, so the data is relevant and actionable.”

With the multitude of seed treatment and enhancement choices on the market in the seed industry today, it can become difficult for seed companies to determine what products will offer the best value and greatest performance for their brand. Product choice is of the utmost importance, leaving companies with two choices, says Schweigert: “either test the products themselves, or pay someone else to test.”

The solution is quite simple for members, he believes.

“IPSA Field Trial program solves this problem by doing the work for them. This program allows every IPSA member access to performance data for a variety of products tested across a wide range of geographies and conditions. This unbiased, professional data that compares seed treatment/enhancement products from companies across the industry is invaluable to those deciding which products to trust on their seed.”

Members Value Simplicity and Integrity

For members of IPSA, the appeal of the trials is the simplicity of the process and the quality of the information gleaned from the testing.

“We like working with IPSA because the process has been easy. They send us the seed for the trials, and we treat the seed with our seed treatment solutions. We then return the seed to be included in the trial,” explains David Long, seed treatment technical manager for Albaugh, LLC. “The hard work happens on their side. They do the work with the contractors to place the trials in multiple states. At the end of season, they provide companies like Albaugh with data compared to standards — and in some cases — compared to other companies’ solutions.”

Albaugh has been involved in the IPSA trials for nearly 10 years, and has continued to participate for three reasons: the interest of Albaugh customers, the range of data provided and the quality of the information.

“The members are our customers — or our potential customers —and they like to see data from these trials. Everyone is using the same lots of seed (vigor, yield, traits), so it takes the bias out of the data sets,” adds Long. “Since it is presented and analyzed by the IPSA team, we can use the data in our summaries. There is flexibility when working with IPSA. You get to see your seed treatment solution compared to other products and controls and have data that some of the seed companies — IPSA members — want to see.”

How to Participate

If a member of IPSA is interested in participating in the field trial, they can kickstart the process by reaching out to Frans or Marc Neuman, director of new business development, nursery services for Gro Alliance. The program is offered to IPSA members as a benefit of their membership and is provided at no additional cost.

The process begins with a simple conversation where Frans or Neuman will explain the ins and outs of the trials, identifying what the member’s goals are for participating.

Applications for trials begin in the fall, with the deadline falling on March 1, 2023. After a company has sent in their application, they must send in their seed to the Gro Alliance facility located in Mount Pulaski, Ill. Gro Alliance will collect the data and present their findings to IPSA, who will then share the information with interested members.

IPSA does not limit the number of companies that partake in the trials, nor the number of products that a single company can send in for testing.

“In short, it’s professionally managed, unbiased test results on dozens of seed treatments and enhancements. They will receive actionable information to help them decide what to put on their seed to give their brand a competitive advantage, and their customer better profit potential from their farm. It really is a win-win for both IPSA members and seed treatment and enhancement companies,” concludes Schweigert.