How To Run On-Farm Field Trials
Field trials can show you what works, and what doesn’t, on your ground. You have an opportunity to take control of learning exactly what works, and what doesn’t, on your ground. Varying field conditions, equipment and finances, are yours to know and manage.
Trying Something New on Your Farm
Articles, advertisements and coffee shop conversations abound, telling you how they think you should make your management decisions. Not sure if you should trust what a salesman is selling you? Then setting up manageable and precise on-farm trials you can use may be a good option for you. You don’t have to take their word for it—the seed dealer, the chemical salesman or anyone else who wants to promise you that what they’re selling will work on your farm.
Experimenting on the farm isn’t new, but the sheer volume of inputs and practices you could test can be overwhelming.
There is an infinite amount of experimentation that could be done on your farm, from testing new tools, equipment, technology and inputs. Don’t let that stop you. By conducting on-farm trials on your own acres, you can potentially save time and money for the future. Find out if you’re using something that doesn’t provide a return, and learn more about your specific ground, equipment and production practices.
What Can On-Farm Trials Reveal?
On-farm trials are an excellent way to evaluate how implementing new or different management practices could benefit your operation.
You can trial seeds, chemicals, or a variety of management factors on your farm, such as fertility, tillage, row spacing, etc. If it’s a factor that you can control, you can develop a trial that helps you assess its viability. But by performing the trials in your own fields, you can verify that the performance claims made by outside sources match up with what you experience on your own farm.
Another benefit of running trials is that you can determine whether the added yield/benefit of a new system or product will be worth the financial cost.
Forecast how potential/different management plans will perform compared to each other.
It’s easy to think of farming in the abstract: we plant crops; we help them grow; we harvest them to provide food, fuel and fiber that keeps the world turning. But it’s rarely that simple.
Each season you have to look at an overwhelming number of factors to decide how they can cultivate the most yield with the lowest input costs, the fewest man hours and the minimum environmental impact.
Do What Farmers Have Done for Decades on Their Farms . . . See For Yourself!
You don’t have to be a researcher or an extension agronomist to set up successful on-farm field trials. We’ll walk you through how to set them up and manage them successfully throughout the season.
What Can You Test and Trial on Your Farm?
What will on-farm trials cost me?
While there may be a few costs associated with running a trial, farmers can make sure they aren’t overspending on a trendy change, or conversely, missing out on a new opportunity to win big in the long-run.
Time is valuable, but that’s primarily what it will cost you up front in planning, such as where to trial and what to trial, as well as any increase in cost for what you are trialing. But you’ll also want to consider any upfront costs to lease or purchase specialized equipment or tools that you’ll need for a particular application or input (such as variable rate applications). Don’t forget, there is also the risk that what you’re trialing may not work or perform, and could result in yield loss.
Plan your trials and manage them throughout the season with help from this guide.