Farm Progress

The tool will help farmers evaluate various treatments.

Paula Mohr, Editor, The Farmer

June 1, 2017

2 Min Read
ON YOUR OWN: Farmers who conduct their own on-farm research may find it helpful to use an Excel spreadsheet designed by U-M Extension to compare inputs and yields.NolanBerg11/iStock/Thinkstock

Two University of Minnesota Extension scientists have developed an Excel spreadsheet that crop producers and other ag professionals may use to help them evaluate on-farm trials.

The spreadsheet, designed by Paulo Pagliari, Extension soil scientist, and Bruce Potter, Extension integrated pest management specialist, allows a farmer to enter yields for two or three treatments — such as varieties, pesticides and fertilizers — with three to eight replications. The spreadsheet then calculates treatment averages and statistical differences. In addition to yield, the spreadsheet can calculate differences among crop stands, insect, disease and weed control tactics and other variables.

“This spreadsheet is not, by any means, bug-free polished software, but you might still find it useful,” Potter says.

When crops are mostly planted, farmers still may find it useful to compare practices such as foliar fungicide effect on corn or soybean yields, insecticide benefits for controlling aphids in corn, or to compare split planter corn or soybean yields, he says.

“We are doing some of these experiments in small research plots, and this gives curious farmers a chance to follow along on their farm,” he adds.

Potter says if a number of farmers are willing to share their data, he would be willing to pool and analyze the data across sites.

To learn about conducting your own on-farm trials, check out the Extension on-farm research guide.

To use the Excel spreadsheet, go to the On-Farm Trials Worksheet and click on "Excel spreadsheet."

Thinking about conducting your own trial? Keep in mind these tips, offered by Pagliari and Potter:

Some tips for on-farm research:

• Do not try to compare too many treatments in one trial. If you want to compare more than three or four treatments, work with a statistician.

• Make sure you have a control treatment. Include a common treatment or untreated plots in your comparison.

• Avoid placing treatments in locations where cropping history or soil factors would affect treatments differently.

• Include replications (more than one plot for each treatment). Three or more replicates are needed to determine the consistency of results. Replication is not multiple samples from the same plot or strip (this is pseudo-replication).

• Randomize the order in which your treatment plots or strips occur in the field, such as the planting order of varieties or which plots receive which varieties.

• Understand how variability influences your ability to draw conclusions. Do you want to risk calling treatments different that are essentially the same, or do you want to risk not finding real treatment differences?

• Don’t overextrapolate and assume the rest of your experiment has to be valid for other fields.

For more information about on-farm trials, the spreadsheet or to participate in sharing data, contact Potter at [email protected].


About the Author(s)

Paula Mohr

Editor, The Farmer

Mohr is former editor of The Farmer.

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