Strip trial-style test plots where one hybrid is tested one time is not scientific research. It's not going to prove one hybrid is better than another. If a tester of check hybrid is included as every other or every third entry across the field, then you get some measure of how one hybrid compares to a standard. If there is a big change in soil type or drainage, you get a better chance to know if one hybrid is just not as high yielding as one where yields were higher, or if soil types prevented it from doing better.
Doug Berhalter is a seed rep for Doebler Seeds. The company is based in Pennsylvania, but sells a sizable amount of seed , especially in the eastern half of Indiana and into Ohio. Berhalter lives in Wayne County near Fountain City.
He is careful to look over strip trial results with customers. His entries don't always win, but many times they perform better than the check they were planted next to.
"That's what you need to know," he says. "A hybrid may not be the best in the plot. But it may perform better compared to the check next to it than the hybrid that topped the plot compared to its check."
If that happens, then it may still be a hybrid you want to take a look at, he notes.
Here's an example. Suppose that Hybrid A yields 212 bushels per acre in a plot this year. The check on either side of it averaged 198 bushels per acre. So it's 14 bushels per acre better than the check.
On the other side of the field where hybrid Z was planted, the check averaged 155 bushels per acre. Hybrid Z yielded 177 bushels per acre. That's a far cry from the top hybrid in the plot – hybrid A, at 212 bushels per acre, but it's 22 bushels per acre better than the check, the same hybrid that hybrid A topped by only 14 bushels per acre.
The whole point is to examine test plot results, especially strip trial results, don't just accept them at face value, Berhalter says.