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Aggies gain in TAPS contest

Aggies gain in TAPS contest

Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture students at their TAPS sprinkler irrigation corn field at North Platte. (Brad Ramsdale photo / NCTA)
Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture students at their TAPS sprinkler irrigation corn field at North Platte. (Brad Ramsdale photo / NCTA)

The old line about a farmer out standing in his (or her) field is no joke for agronomy students at the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture.

Aggie students of NCTA Agronomy Professor Brad Ramsdale participated in 2020 and 2021 in a University of Nebraska-Lincoln competition called Testing Ag Performance Solutions.

The TAPS program is coordinated by Nebraska Extension at the West Central Research, Extension and Education Center at North Platte. TAPS is open to individual growers, agribusinesses, education, and students. Various natural resource agencies and industry educators support the project.

TAPS is an interactive real-life farm management contest. It measures profitability and input use efficiency. Resources, data, computer applications and crop technology is shared in a newsletter and on the TAPS website.

Ramsdale entered teams each year, managing the 2020-21 wheat crop near Sidney, and the other for 2020 sprinkler irrigated corn near WCREEC at North Platte.

Ahren Marburger of Malvern, Iowa was on both teams.

“I did not have previous experience with wheat at all so that was new to me,” said Marburger, now a sophomore who will return to his family farm after graduating in May.

“I have experience with corn, but not irrigated, due to Iowa having enough rainfall not to need irrigation. My favorite crop between the two was corn.”

Ahren is on NCTA’s crops judging team and studies extensively with Ramsdale, his coach and professor.

He joined three teammates on the wheat team Cooper Mazza, Potter; Kamren Sitzman, McCook; and Ayden Long, Lebanon, Kansas.

The foursome chose the variety of wheat, seeding rate, phosphorus and nitrogen fertility program in both amount and timing of application, and chose the crop insurance program. They marketed the wheat using a yield calculated from a simulated 2,000-acre dryland farm.

For the sprinkler irrigated corn in 2020, Marburger, Mazza and Sitzman were joined by Koltyn Forbes, Wood River; Ryan Liakos, Bayard; and Logan Wamsley, Sidney.

They chose the corn hybrid, seeding rate, crop insurance program, and nitrogen fertility program for both amount and application timing. Since students were on summer internships, Ramsdale handled the irrigation and then shared data that fall semester with his irrigation class. The corn team made marketing decisions based on a 3,000-acre simulated farm.

“I found it interesting how the whole contest works,” Marburger said. “With the corn, we had the opportunity to go help the research center in North Platte gather bio-mass samples for the contest and their research. It was interesting to how all the different plots were managed and how the different varieties did.”

NCTA has a campus farm where students can take hands-on coursework such as irrigation, soils, precision agriculture, ag chemical application, agricultural machinery maintenance, and harvest operations.

Dr. Ramsdale is the unit lead for the classes, field laboratory, faculty in Production Agriculture, along with coaching the Crops Judging Team.  He works closely with scientists and research faculty at WCREEC and has referred several of his students for internships there, and in industry.

Those who graduate with associate degrees from NCTA often gain employment as crop advisors or industry personnel.  Some are agriculture producers. Students also transfer to UNL or other 4-year institutions for a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

For Marburger, he looks forward to getting back to his family’s diversified operation.

“I will be able to apply some of the knowledge I learned from this experience to farming in Iowa, particularly the nutrient applications,” he said.

“My advice for students would be to participate in this experience because it's a way to experiment without having to spend your own money to do so.”

Information about TAPS is available at  Information on academic programs at NCTA can be found at

Part of the University of Nebraska system, the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture is a two-year institution with a statewide mission of preparing students for successful careers in agriculture, veterinary technology and related industries. NCTA is known for its affordable tuition, high job-placement rate for its graduates, and for the success of student teams in competitive activities including crops judging, ranch horse events, livestock judging, shotgun sports, stock dog trials, and intercollegiate rodeo. The college is consistently ranked as one of the best two-year schools in the nation.