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Company Test Plots Put a Unique Twist on Testing

Company Test Plots Put a Unique Twist on Testing
Northern Indiana pilot expanding across Midwest.

If you plant DeKalb seed and live in northern Indiana, this new plot concept may be nothing new to you. Company officials say they piloted the Dekalb Knowledge Challenge in northern Indiana during the past two years. Now they're ready to expand the program across Indiana and a good chunk of the Corn Belt.

Most plots seek very uniform ground for test plots. According to conventional wisdom, you need to take out the variable of soil difference to be able to compare one or more products or practices against each other. Otherwise, you may be testing variation in soil, which may have a bigger effect on yield than the hybrid or factor you're trying to measure, whether it's a brand new hybrid or a practice, such as planting at 40,000 kernels per acre instead of 32,000 kernels per acre.

In this program, Dekalb wants variation in soils. Why? Because the company wants farmers to learn and understand how various DeKalb products fit onto various parts of their farm. Planting in soil which is less uniform will give you a chance to view hybrids under different environments, all on your farm.

The secret is GPS technology and the yield monitor, spokespersons say. These plots aren't about average yield figures once the plot is harvested. Instead, they're about the variability you see on the monitor as the plot is harvested, related to differences in the localized environment around the plant.

Dekalb dealers and territory managers will assist farmers with this project. It's all about tying yield at specific points back to conditions at that point. That's how spokespersons believe farmers can learn the most—by seeing how hybrids react to different environments, not just on small plots but in the field.

Custom, data-driven recommendations are what supposed to come out of the process. It will be a much more intriguing way to analyze a test plot than what most farmers are used to doing when running test plots and ultimately selecting hybrids.

Meanwhile, Purdue University Extension agronomists Bob Nielsen, Jim Camberato and Shaun Casteel continue to ask for on-farm cooperators to do more traditional, yet replicated, strip plot trials. They want to check nitrogen rates and also try different soybean seeding rates for soybeans.

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