Fact Check Your On-Farm Trials

Posted by Katie McWhirter on 7/9/20 8:15 AM
Katie McWhirter

New agronomy products are being brought to market every year, with claims of adding bushels to your bottom line. Every farmer is curious whether or not these products actually perform. Whether it’s micros, in-furrow, seed treatment, fungicide, or biologicals, farmers want proof that a product will perform on their own acres. Most are willing to try a new product or two on a few acres to see what will happen before they invest in every acre. However, how they analyze that data is essential to getting a clear picture to that product’s success.

Every product will have a claim: “3 bushel advantage.” “7 bushel increase.” If that’s the average increase, how many bushels could you gain on your own operation? How do you measure the real numbers?

I recall a foliar trial on soybeans that was run for one of my growers several years ago. The results were astounding!  Maybe this was the “magic bullet” that the agronomic world was waiting for!

do on-farm trials work?

Then, I started to look at the rest of the story:

on-farm fertility trials

My excitement quickly simmered.  Was it really the product that was causing the increase in yield or was it something else?  Or, did soil fertility cause this amazing yield bump?

If I would not have had more information about the trial area and the area that we were checking against it, I may have recommended to the grower to go whole farm on this product and could have had to explain the following year why it did or did not perform.

On-Farm trials are essential for you, the grower, to find out where these products work best.  They wouldn’t be on the market if they didn’t work, but finding out where they work best is essential in placing them profitably on YOUR fields.  Simply looking at a yield monitor or drawing a circle around two areas and comparing yield alone does not tell you what you need to know.

on-farm trials strip trials

Analyzing the rest of the data, such as soil fertility and applied nutrients can help you to make a better decision for using these products.  Agronomy is not simple and there is not a one size fits all ‘magic bullet’ out there, but knowing what works and where will help you make more profitable decisions. 

It pays to know what else is going on by looking deeper at all your data layers, not just the yield file. Like Paul Harvey said, and we agree, you need to know “the rest of the story.”

Topics: trials

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Premier Crop Systems, based out of Des Moines, IA, started in 1999 to deliver better agronomic decisions through data analysis that lead to higher yields, increased profits and more sustainable practices for customers. 

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