A few days ago I was talking with a wise customer about his corn hybrid test plot. He made the comment that planting a plot in the spring feels like a complete waste of time when the goal is to get the rest of crop in the ground as efficiently as possible. But, in December, when he can look at the results and compare them to other plots, he realizes it was time well spent. That frustrating half day in May is long forgotten and the hybrid selection process becomes easier. The confidence in December out weighs the anxiety in May.
With that in mind let's review the criteria for an effective test plot.
1. Plant the plot in order of maturity. It is in your best interest to compare hybrids that are only 50-100 heat units different in maturity.
2. Keep the plot to a manageable size. Eight hybrids tends to be plenty when you have to dump planter boxes. It also keeps hidden field variability to a minimum. If the plot is bigger, analyze the results in small chunks. Resist the temptation to compare hybrids if they are more than 8 strips apart.
3. A check hybrid can be useful if planted at both ends of a small plot. Research has proven that check strips within field scale plots make results less accurate. A wider plot increases the risk of field variability affecting the results.
4. The area of the field used should have the same rotation history, fertilizer, tillage, planting practices and drainage. If possible, plant perpendicular to tile runs.
5. Avoid planting too close to buildings, fencelines or windbreaks. We all know what it feels like to stand in the wind and then move out of the wind. Strips close to windbreaks have an advantage because plants feel the same effect.
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