Value Packed Benefits of Collaborating on Research

When it comes to making decisions for your operation, we know that research and trials provide essential data. But, have you ever considered the indirect benefits? We take a deeper dive into this, and more, in our latest piece.

May 12, 2023
3 mins
Jason Haegle

Data and insights gleaned from collaborative research are imperative, but the relationships we build in the process provide the most impact and value. Working with various partners allows us to specialize in plant fertility while also leaning into others’ expertise. This is especially true for our collaborations with commercial growers, university researchers, and emerging/next generation scientist

Collaboration with Commercial Growers Counts

When the opportunity to work with a farmer presents itself, there’s an open door for mutual learning and advancement. We’ve had the pleasure of working with business owners who are in various stages of their careers and who bring insights on an abundance of crops and production systems. One who is impressive is Tye Wittenbach, apple grower and joint owner of LTI Ag Research. His drive, knowledge of orchard management, and business knowledge got us excited to partner together on research to advance apple fertility and production. It was obvious that his talents would be a great complement to our team’s extensive fertility expertise. Christi Falen – an ICL Agronomist covering the Western U.S. – has found that in working with Wittenbach, Seth Hansen, and David Holden (consultants/researchers for commercial growers in California) there is a mutual appreciation for innovation – and that fuels contagious enthusiasm and learning for all involved.

Our role as a partner is not only to learn from the research but also optimize return-on-investment for the grower. AJ Foster, ICL Agronomist for the Southern U.S., believes that when working with growers, the collective goals are to increase environmental sustainability, ensure customer profitability, and strengthen trust and respect between partners. Foster’s reaction to trial collaboration results emphasized the importance of earning trust and achieving a win-win result for all parties involved. At the end of the day, we work together on practices that maintain soil health and profitability. It is not enough to focus on selling the product. Our purpose is much larger, all parties must profit from the collaboration.

University Exploration Opportunities

As a former UI Extension Educator and mentor for new agronomists, Falen believes in creating university/private industry relationships both for student practical learning and research/innovation for the agricultural industry. Partnering with Oregon State University’s Ashley Thompson, a Fruit Tree Extension Educator, has complimented Falen’s customer offerings. Dr. Thompson has a deep understanding of the genetic makeup of cherries. That, coupled with Falen’s expertise on fertility, creates shared respect and learning. It has also resulted in a shared passion and research for improving the growth and quality of cherries.

At the University of California Davis, Falen has teamed with Dr. Patrick Brown, whose focus is agronomic resources for plant nutrition, on research trials. A recent visit with Dr. Brown’s graduate students yielded multiple presentations/discussions of current UC Davis’ almond research. Recalling the way one of Falen’s professors took her under their wings, she temporarily slipped on her educator shoes.

The students’ overview of their projects gave Falen the opportunity to share solutions for challenges encountered in their almond research, particularly around cover crops.

The outcome of the visit is a future partnership. One that is likely to teach students real world applications of products, not just prove scientific hypotheses. Insight towards the development of future solutions from ICL is sure to be gained as well. Paying forward the mentorship Falen’s professor extended to her is inspiring our next generation of scientists.

Because product trials deliver incredible insight, there is no disputing the value of the data collected. Collaborations give us the opportunity to compare observations, walk through fields and orchards with those who can speak about the history of the land and legacy of those who shaped it, and, ultimately, for relationships with those who will carry it sustainably into the future. These are the results that we know to be priceless.