6 Steps for Successful On-Farm Trials | AgriGold

6 Steps for Successful On-Farm Trials

6 Steps for Successful On-Farm Trials

On-farm trials can help farmers learn best practices, test new products or equipment and try innovative systems. Thanks to precision agriculture technologies, conducting these trials has become easier and more effective. By demonstrating the effectiveness of different products, practices, and technologies, on-farm trials improve decision-making — and profitability.

1. Choosing the right tests and trials

To ensure meaningful, actionable results from on-farm testing, establish clear objectives and clarify a test question. The test question should be simple, clear, and easily answered with a straightforward yes or no.

Next, select appropriate test areas. These should be diverse areas that represent different soil types, topography, or other factors that may influence trial outcomes. Make sure to conduct on-farm testing and trials under realistic growing conditions. This way, results will accurately reflect the data from a typical growing season, and be more relevant and applicable.

2. Designing on-farm trials

A well-structured experiment will lead to more reliable, accurate results. For the most effective experiment design, consider these factors:

Plot layout and size:

These should align with specific testing objectives. Plots should be large enough to capture meaningful variations and collect enough data to analyze. The layout design should minimize potential confounding factors and allow for clear differentiation between treatments.

Randomization and replication:

These strategies minimize bias and account for field variability. Randomly assign treatments to different plots to ensure any observed differences are not caused by systematic factors. Replicating treatments across multiple plots enhances the experiment’s statistical power and provides a more robust evaluation of the treatments’ effects.

Control treatments and treatment variations:

On-farm trials need a baseline for comparison. Control plots should represent a farm operation’s standard practice. Treatment variations, such as testing different planting dates (e.g., normal planting date vs. early), provide insights into specific practices’  impact.

3. Test parameters and collect data

During on-farm testing, pay special attention to the specific parameters being tested. These could be seed varieties or traits, fertilizer applications, or crop protection products. Maintain consistency across all factors, and only vary the specific factor under examination.

Diligent data collection is the most important step throughout testing. This includes gathering comprehensive yield measurements and grain quality evaluations. Accurate data recording and effective management practices ensure reliable results. Meaningful analysis also depends on properly recorded data.

4. Result analysis

After collecting data, statistical analysis can help derive meaningful insights. Summary statistics can provide a concise snapshot of the results and key findings. Statistical significance and confidence intervals help assess the reliability of observed differences: were those differences statistically meaningful, or did they occur by chance?

Quality data interpretation is key to informed decision-making and identification of areas of improvement. Compare findings with historical field data or industry benchmarks for valuable context that can help gauge current practices’ effectiveness. Note that areas with a history of issues, such as soil variability or past crop diseases, may influence the results and potentially skew findings.

5. Communication and reporting

To ensure testing transparency and reproducibility, clearly document test protocols and methodologies.With this comprehensive record, farmers can replicate tests, and others can verify results.

Regular communication with the AgriGold agronomy team is highly recommended throughout the testing process. Sharing updates and seeking guidance from experts can ensure testing follows best practices. Collaboration with your agronomist can also help address any challenges or questions.

Once testing and data analysis are complete, compile the findings into a comprehensive report that clearly presents outcomes.This also helps communicate key findings to fellow farmers, agronomists, and cooperative extension personnel. 

Sharing information fosters collaboration, encourages adoption of best practices, and contributes to collective crop production improvement. With this information, the whole agricultural industry can advance.

6. Follow-up actions

  • Assess the economic implications of the results to determine the potential impact on profitability.
  • Identify lessons from on-farm testing and any potential challenges from the process.
  • Consider adjusting practices to optimize crop potential. This may involve adopting new practices, modifying existing ones, or implementing specific recommendations based on results.

The bottom line

On-farm trials offer farmers a convenient opportunity to test out best practices, experiment with new products or equipment, and explore innovative systems. This enables them to make informed management decisions and ultimately enhance profitability. If you’re seeking further guidance for on-farm testing, don’t hesitate to contact your local AgriGold agronomy team member