6 Tips For On-Farm Research Success

Purdue University Extension Corn Specialist Bob Nielsen reveals 6 tips to get on-farm research right.

By Debbie Clayton & Marilyn Cummins | Photos By Purdue University

  1. Choose the treatments smartly by developing a simple, meaningful research question or hypothesis. Include a control or check treatment.
  2. Design the trial appropriately, relative to statistical soundness, including replicating and randomizing treatments. “If research is not your vocation, ask for help from those who conduct research for a living,” Nielsen says, whether university researchers, consulting agronomists or others.

    Bob Nielsen

  3. To avoid having to abandon test plots, pay faithful attention to detail throughout the whole season, because things can go wrong pretty easily. That goes for establishing the treatments, conducting the trial, collecting data and harvesting. Double-check the math, equipment settings and the condition of row units or nozzles that could malfunction.
  4. Take plenty of notes through the season, especially about weather events, pests and oddities in the field that could cause “noise” in the data. Take advantage of aerial images for visual evidence of human error, as well as stress areas caused by soil variations, insect damage, herbicide injury or weather.
  5. Before you harvest, check the accuracy of grain moisture meters. Calibrate the yield monitor, grain moisture sensors and vibration settings on the combine to the grain conditions of the field. Then triple-check the yield-monitor settings, and harvest carefully.
  6. Don’t skip the step of processing or “cleaning” yield data to remove anomalies before analyzing the results of the trial. Again, ask for help with analysis if needed.