February, 26th, 2021
by Andrew Blomme on 2/25/2021
February 26th, 2021
The recent weather has gotten me terribly antsy for spring to get here. With crop prices on the rise, producers are looking to get every bushel they can out of this 2021 crop. Some of you may be trying out new products on yours acres for the first time in 2021. This newsletter will discuss ways to evaluate those products to determine their value. Every application of a new product should be an opportunity to collect data and evaluate that product. We strongly encourage growers to plan ahead and apply these products so they can more accurately evaluate the effectiveness of that product.
It is extremely important to setup an application in a measurable way from the beginning. Failure to do so can make it extremely difficult to quantify the effect of a certain product.
For example, Farmer Andrew bought a couple jugs of "Product A", a biological foliar product, that is supposed to raise his soybean yields. It costs $24/acre to apply this product so he knows he needs about 2 bushels/acre increase in his yields to justify this product. Farmer Andrew applies "Product A" over a whole field. After using "Product A" in 2021, the field averages 65 bu/ac. In 2019, the same farm yielded 60 bu/ac. Can Farmer Andrew accurately attribute this yield increase to the use of "Product A"? Many other factors may have influenced this yield difference such as variety selection, a more favorable growing season, or equipment upgrades that occurred since 2019. Trying to determine the effect of "Product A" will be nearly impossible in this situation.
There are ways you can more accurately measure the effectiveness of a product. It is important to set up a control (untreated) area and a treated area in close proximity to each other. The picture below shows an example of a product test layout across a whole field. The green area is the control area and the treatment blocks are denoted by the different colors.
In this hypothetical case, there are three areas looking at three different products: "Product A", "Product B", and "Product C". There are untreated areas surrounding these blocks to compare to throughout the growing season. Yield differences between products and the untreated area will be much easier to calculate and more accurate with this setup compared to applying to a whole field.
It takes some planning to place these test blocks effectively. Be careful to avoid areas with changing soil types as this can severely effect the comparison. For soybean trials, blocks should be set perpendicular to the direction of harvest if possible. This decreases the area you will be harvesting a swath that is a mix of treated and untreated area making it easier to evaluate harvest data later. The size of the blocks will depend on the field. In the case above, we were able to make 4-5 acre test blocks because the soils were fairly uniform throughout that area. If possible, multiple test blocks are encouraged. Lastly, use precision ag tools to make it easier on yourself. GPS record of the application and accurate yield maps makes evaluating a product incredibly more accurate and simple.
This year Herbers Seed will be taking a closer look at several products ourselves. We will be looking at a soybean inoculant and fungicide product called Vault IP Plus. It is a product that is applied as an accessory seed treatment alongside our typical treatments. We are looking at this product on rotated ground to see the yield effect of supplementing Bradyrhizobium japonicum to a soybean crop. Bradyrhizobium japonicum is the bacteria found in the soil that forms a symbiotic relationship with soybeans to convert atmospheric nitrogen into a usable form for the soybean plant. A micronutrient foliar mix will be evaluated as well. This product is composed of zinc, boron, and manganese and typically gets applied in a spray application. We will also be evaluating the yield effect of this product on soybeans.
If you decide to try out a new product this year, you have the opportunity to determine the effectiveness of that product yourself. Take the time to plan out how you will evaluate that new product. Then at the end of the year, let's be able to evaluate good data and make sound conclusions.