ISSUE 10 JULY 8, 1999
TRIAL IT, YOU WILL LEARN TO LIKE IT
Do you consider the hybrids and varieties you chose for your farm
this year to be the best? Odds,
unfortunately, are that a complete stranger could pick a variety that would match or even beat your
choice. A University of Wisconsin study that was run in 1992 may cause you to consider your hand
in the hybrid and variety game.
A University of Wisconsin agronomist challenged 60 growers to each
pick their best corn hybrid
for their farm. Then, he picked a hybrid of the same relative maturity based on yield results from
the university's trials. The seed were then planted side-by-side in a field of the farmer's choice.
On 16 of the farms in the study, the agronomist and the growers
picked the same hybrid, while
on 22 of the farms the hybrids chosen by each (the farmer and the agronomist) had statistically similar
yields. On the remaining 22 farms, the agronomist and the farmers were equally in the winner's ring.
Thus, the agronomist broke even on the showing.
This reveals that those small plots that universities replicate CAN
predict what will happen in the field
as well as that personal touch in your farm field determinations. In fact, small plots can be just as good
or even better at predicting top-yielding hybrids and varieties than your own farm experience. The main
point of the example is that picking seed based only on farm experience just isn't enough today. This
is especially true with new hybrids and varieties popping up in the market each year. On-farm plots,
including those conducted as sales plots with seed companies, often are not replicated and are only on
one site. The information from these biased plots can skew results if one hybrid is planted on better soil
than another. Even some replication will still be only one location for stand-alone farm trials.
Use of university data compares yields over large numbers of
locations under a greater variety of soil,
weather and management conditions and will provide more information than three years worth of data
from one farm.
Consider looking at university trial data as well as company tests
in your area. Both the farmer and
university trials check the recommendations across soil types and thus provide the farmer with even
On-farm tests, however, are still valuable. These trials are really
good at checking secondary traits
such as standability and drydown. Also, these trials will allow you to test maturity ranges of hybrids and
varieties you want right where you can watch the entire season.
Rather than learning the hard way during a long, wet harvest season,
try some trials on new varieties.
This will allow you to move toward spreading out your risk by ascertaining which varieties are early
(25% of your farm), which are adapted (50%) and which are later (25%). Don't have a year go by to
remind you how trials will help you determine your farm needs. Visit the trials at your local university
center or near your farm. Check the stands and health of the plants as well as the herbicide program
being used now especially after the winds and weather we have had this year. Try to check these same
plots later in the season, just before harvest and ask for the harvest data. Don't bet your farm on a near
guess, get as much trial data this year as you can in order to make better decisions next year.
Denise A. McWilliams
Extension Crop Production Specialist