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.
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.
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
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.
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.
ON-FARM TESTS AND DEMONSTRATIONS ARE DIFFERENT
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.
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.
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.
of the test plots or strips and random assignment of treatments
to the plots.
selection of sites to minimize the influence of field variability
measurement of yield and other factors of interest from
and interpretation of results using accepted statistical
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.