Ask plenty of questions on test-plot data
Posted: 09/21/2012 at 1:15 am
I read an interesting article this week in Ohio State’s agronomy newsletter concerning test-plot data for 2012. The drought played havoc with our crops this season, and the authors caution that test-plot data may or may not be as useful this fall when making your variety decisions for 2013.
For example, they asked the question, “Did a hybrid yield well under drought stress because it genuinely possesses some drought resistance or because it “escaped” the impact of high temperatures and drought by flowering before or after the worst of the stress?” If it was the latter, then the hybrid’s superior performance may be of limited value under different drought conditions in the future.
In the past, the rule of thumb has been that if a drought occurs late in the season, then early maturing hybrids will have an advantage over later maturity hybrids; if the drought occurs earlier, but is broken by rains later in the season, then the full-season hybrids may have the advantage. By the same token, early maturing soybeans near physiological maturity may not have benefited as much from late-season rainfall as late maturing soybeans with seeds that were still filling.
Test-plot information collected this year can still be useful but you should ask questions. Results from single on-farm strip tests should not be used to make a decision on adoption of a treatment or variety. Even replicated data from a single test site should be avoided, especially if the plot was in one of the drought-stricken areas.
The most reliable test-plot data will be from multiple sites (and preferably from at least two years of testing). Be sure to ask questions about the weather patterns and conditions associated with the results. Look for consistency in a variety’s performance across a range of environmental conditions.
Jeff Burbrink is an Extension educator in agriculture and natural resources. Write to him at 17746 E. C.R. 34, Goshen, IN 46528; call 533-0554; or fax 533-0254.