Evaluating plots: The proof is in the yield

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Whether it’s your own trial or a company’s, a trial without data to back up the good or bad results can be a waste of time and resources. It’s always the hope that you try something new and come harvest you see an increase in either yield or protein, or something that affects your bank account in a positive way. However, there are many factors to consider, and even though the numbers show positive increases one year, it doesn’t mean they will in subsequent years.

RealAgriculture’s Peter “Wheat Pete” Johnson weighs in on the subject of trials, and says first and foremost, growers should do their best to not let trials go by the wayside come harvest, despite the time crunch that is often a very real pressure for many during that time of the year.

“The number of trials that get put in place in the spring, that then get lost by harvest… We need that data and follow it through. If you go to the work in the spring, please figure out how to get the yield data in the fall, and you need that yield data, and you need it from a reliable source,” says Johnson. Sometimes, visually a plot looks like it’s doing really well and it’s not until you get out at harvest time to see what actually happened there.

Johnson also warns growers to be cautious when using yield monitors as the only means of judging yield. Factors such as whether you are going uphill or downhill, or the waxiness of the kernel and/or the moisture content can all play a significant role in the actual final yield numbers.

Having plots and a trial that is multi-site, multi-year, will also add to the validity of the results. It’s not uncommon to have a mixed bag of conditions within a field, let alone an entire farm, so repeating those trials in different areas will help you get a solid understanding of how different variables can affect the trial at hand. Also, whether you get positive or less than ideal results, repeating that trial the next year and even the year after will again, give you a really good understanding of what the possibilities are and makes for well-informed decisions moving forward.

At the end of the day, especially in the scenario of trials and plots, data is king. Financial professionals often speak about the benefits of tracking farm data and how it can play a large role in seeing those profit increases year-over-year, or being armed with the information to dissect the operation and theorize where the potential downfalls may be. Plot trials require and benefit from the same.

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