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On-Farm Testing LogoA Powerful Tool for Northwest Growers

INTRODUCTION

On-farm testing (OFT) has the potential to revolutionize farming practices by putting a new tool of innovation -- experimental methodology -- in the hands of the most dedicated agricultural innovators, the growers themselves.

In times like these when the agricultural community feels pressed from all sides, the successful grower needs to trim cost, maintain profitability, and reduce potential adverse effects on the cropland resource and environment. Developing effective improvements requires decisions based on accurate information that applies to your soil, your rainfall, and your equipment. On-farm testing is an accurate, efficient way to get the information needed to make the right decisions. OFT can be used to test different crop rotations, tillage practices, planting equipment, fertilizer methods, varieties or just about any change in practice you might be considering.

The primary goal of the STEEP II OFT project is to develop practical OFT methods for the Pacific Northwest and promote the use of OFT for evaluation, development, and accelerated adoption of innovative conservation practices.

BACKGROUND

Over the past two decades many new conservation farming technologies have been generated across the Northwest by the STEEP project, related research efforts, private industry, and innovative growers. Although some were adopted relatively quickly, extensive adoption of many of these technologies has been slow. Understandably, growers are reluctant to adopt new technologies not developed or tested in their area, particularly if the production practice requires a significant financial investment or risk. Because of soil, climate, and production system differences across the Northwest, there is a need to evaluate new technologies under site-specific conditions.

Growers need a way to evaluate new practices on their own farm so they can make management choices with a high level of confidence. The STEEP II OFT project was dedicated to providing effective and practical methods for comparison of new technologies by growers. Results of local field tests can be powerful promotional tools for new conservation technologies in a production area.

HOW ON-FARM TESTS AND DEMONSTRATIONS ARE DIFFERENT

You have probably done or seen field demonstrations of new practices or products. Demonstrations have commonly been designed by splitting a field, comparing single side-by-side strips, or treating whole fields without a comparative check. Most growers and many representatives of the Ag industry, conservation districts and other groups have used some of these approaches over the years.

These field demonstrations can be valuable as an opportunity for growers to see something new: how well a drill places seed, how it handles residue, etc. Demonstrations provide relative or qualitative information for comparing equipment or practice options, but do not produce valid data for comparing yield, stand counts, erosion potential, etc.

To change a demonstration into an on-farm test producing valid data usually requires only minor changes in planning and layout of the test. The demonstration value of the test is greatly enhanced at the same time.

The OFT methods involve:

  1. Replication of the test plots or strips and random assignment of treatments to the plots.
  2. Proper selection of sites to minimize the influence of field variability on results.
  3. Accurate measurement of yield and other factors of interest from individual plots.
  4. Analysis and interpretation of results using accepted statistical procedures.

The total acreage committed to an on-farm test is often small, two to three acres, so cost and risk are minimal. Results obtained using these methods compare in reliability to intensive university research studies. Reliable results are the key feedback needed by an innovator in any industry if progress is to continue from year to year.

 
                         
                         
                         
 

Contact us: Hans Kok, (208)885-5971 | Accessibility | Copyright | Policies | WebStats | STEEP Acknowledgement
Hans Kok, WSU/UI Extension Conservation Tillage Specialist, UI Ag Science 231, PO Box 442339, Moscow, ID 83844 USA
Redesigned by Leila Styer, CAHE Computer Resource Unit; Maintained by Debbie Marsh, Dept. of Crop & Soil Sciences, WSU