With today's precision farming equipment, doing on-farm research has never been easier. But technology isn't a substitute for critical thinking, says Kurtis Reitsma, South Dakota State University extension precision farming specialist.
When designing an on-farm research project, Reitsma suggest that you narrow your questions down to one and keep the question simple.
For example, the research questions might be "How much phosphorus should be applied as starter fertilizer for a corn crop?" One approach would be to apply 4 rates (0, 25, 50, 100) of a starter in strips spanning the length of the field. Collect yield data from the yield monitor and develop a yield response curve. A yield response curve will give you the optimum rate for achieving optimum yield.
Other tips on doing on-farm research:
Know the field history. Are there areas that are poorly drained, droughty, have excess salts, or other conditions that will influence yield and plant nutrient availability? Plant perpendicular to these areas so you study both the good and poorer parts of the field.
Do not mix treatments. For example if starter fertilizer rates are the question we want answered, all other management practices need to be applied evenly across the field.
Lay out strips in widths that match the width of harvest equipment. Record the location of the strips and mark them in the field with flags or stakes. Ideally, a map would be created that could be used with satellite guidance systems.
Calibrate application equipment so that treatments are applied accurately.
Calibrate harvest equipment so that yield responses are accurately recorded. It is critical to harvest each strip in the proper location. Harvesting one or more rows off the strip will influence yield and give you poor results.Source: SDSU