On-farm field trials can help you gain valuable information about how well another chem application or different seed varieties may work on your fields without investing in it across the entire crop in the first year. Find out what farmers like you are trialing on their farms and what best practices you should adopt to conduct your own on-farm strip trials.
We recently conducted a poll across the FBN network to find out how many farmer members are running strip trials on their operations, and what types of trials they are conducting each year.
Check out the results.
What are farmers trialing?
FBN farmers are primarily running different types of strip trials on seed: Seed variety and seeding rate top the list of types of strip trials.
How many different types of strip trials are farmers running?
In Illinois, Minnesota and South Dakota, farmers are planting four different types of strip trials per year on average. However, in Indiana and Ohio, some farmers are running as many as 10 or more different types of strip trials per year.
If you’re considering a strip trial program on your farm, or are wondering if you’re setting up your trials in the best way, we’ve gathered a few best practices to follow:
Best Practices for On-Farm Strip Trials
Thinking about setting up some on-farm trials for next season? Read this first.
What’s a strip trial? Why do a trial this way?
Strip trials are just what they sound like. Sections, or strips of a field, planted to different hybrids for comparison, or strips of a field treated differently to compare best management practices. The comparison among strips helps a farmer to determine which hybrid or practice would be most profitable and effective on all, or most, of their farms.
1. Determine Your End Goal: What do you want to know?
First, it’s important to determine what you want to learn from your field trial. Are you trying to determine the effectiveness of a new herbicide? Do you want to see a comparison of yields with a new seed variety? Whatever the goal may be, best practices are to include no more than five different seed varieties and one chemical, to see how each seed responds to it.
For example, testing how different soybean varieties perform with varying levels of nitrogen or different rates of a herbicide would be too complex for one strip trial.
2. Include Controls for Added Parameters: This is easier than it sounds.
The basis of an on-farm field trial is determining how a product/method/technology stacks up against another (or the absence) in the same field. You must have controls to determine results accurately. Testing a new technology may involve a few strips with the new technology and a few strips without (control). However, testing a new herbicide could involve no herbicide (control), the new herbicide (positive) and an old herbicide (negative).
3. Utilize Replication and Randomization for Better Comparison: Mix it up.
For the trials, you’ll need multiple sets of strips to compare. You shouldn’t have only one strip with a treatment and one untreated. Variations in the field and production history should be considered, resulting in several strips tested. For example, don’t plant one strip of a new soybean variety in a commonly dry spot in the land and the control in a high-yielding area with more average soil moisture. Other sources of variability to consider include: soil type, topography, management practices, drainage, pesticide residues, disease pressure, compaction and/or weather.1
4. Collect the Right Data: Asking the right question helps get to the best answer.
Using yield monitors certainly helps make it easier to gather data for your fields. Many farmers may think they’re already collecting all the relevant information needed for their strip trial, but they might be missing a few crucial items, such as field background and history of disease and pest pressures, treatment strip locations, observations, photos, satellite imagery and yield.2
Read how farmer Brian Petty of Indiana is using satellite imagery from FBN to run trials on his farm for different corn hybrids and fungicide applications.
5. Analyze Your Results: Take the time time to dig into what you find.
For some, this final best practice might be the most daunting, and most difficult to execute properly on your own. From the data and information you collect, you should be able to determine information that helps inform future production practices, management decisions based on economic impact and the need for multi-year comparisons.2 If you are struggling to determine what all this new information means, or what to do next, enlist a trusted partner to help analyze the data—your local extension office is an excellent resource, as is your FBN account manager.