For the past five years the University of Nebraska Lincoln (UNL) has offered a unique hands-on real-time, real-life scientifically calibrated series of farm management contests known as TAPS. The TAPS acronym stands for Testing Agriculture Performance Solutions (www.TAPS.unl.edu). This unique education/extension/research initiative is a proactive, forward-thinking program that engages many different types of stakeholders using experiential learning, peer to peer engagement, social interaction and the natural human desire for competition and leadership to increase farm management knowledge, skill, capacity, and performance. Each contest has three awards, profitability, efficiency, and productivity. The program is supported by a newsletter, social media, field days, a celebration of the winners and an annual report. Industry support to the program has been overwhelming. Companies and agencies have provided support in many different forms, including financial, technology, services, advice, and cooperation. Competitors manage their individual farms, plots, remotely through the TAPS webpage, which are physically maintained and cared for by the University. Access to information regarding the physical condition of their individual plots, sensor readings, photos, ariel photographs etc. are all posted to the website. Each team’s information and decisions are password protected assuring competitor anonymity. The completed season results are published in an annual report made available both online and print. TAPS has become widely recognized as an effective program, with awards at State, Region and National levels. The program was created and initiated by UNL extension professionals seeking to find more effective ways of addressing the many challenges agriculture production faces in this modern era. The program has and continues to evolve and expand to better meet the needs of its stakeholders. The nature and success of the program has spurred interest across the country and within the extension education network.
The presentation will briefly describe the founding principles and concepts that make TAPS unique and successful including a short overview of the current programs, followed by a discussion of impacts and outcomes observed from the program and its future and growth.