We all see plot data coming from every direction in the fall. You don’t have to look hard to find a mailbox full of plot data from universities, industry, third party testers, farm management agencies or even from your or your neighbors’ farm. There are so many ways to evaluate plot data, but for the purpose of this article I am going to focus on how plot data can help with placement decisions.
What am I looking at?
When evaluating plots for future utilization, it’s important to look at more than just who the winner was. Are the soil types, location, pH, cation exchange capacities (CECs), organic matter, drainage type, rainfall amounts and/or tillage practices listed? These are all things that could change how you look at any given plot. These factors apply to all types of test plots, whether it be variety tests, fertility comparisons or chemical programs (i.e., seed treatments, weed control, disease control and insect control). It is important to look at any notes section for any detailed explanations of how it was conducted or if any given factor may have swayed the results.
When I think about a plot, I see three types of products: the top performers, the consistent contenders and the defensive champs. The top performers are easy to spot and are the most common ones we like to talk about because they can be really exciting. They are always at the top or near the top on high productivity acres and can really set themselves apart. Certainly, these are products that we all can find a spot on our farms for.
Consistent contenders can be just as important to look at. These are products that might be true “go anywhere” type of products. They might not have the highest top end yield but can be near the top on high productivity acres and don’t lose much yield in stress filled environments. These are products that keep the farm going no matter what type of year and often fill a decent amount of orders.
Many have heard the phrase in sports “defense wins championships.” That phrase was probably said most by defensive coordinators, but they have a point. If a defense can stop the opponent from scoring, even a minimal score can win the big games. How does this apply to agriculture? In a tough acre situation disease, soil conditions, drainage capabilities and other environmental factors are the opponent’s offense. How can you stop them from scoring and beating down yield? That’s where these products that have excellent disease control, can repel or kill insects, or make nutrients more available in soils that don’t like to give them up stand out. These types of varieties may never be able to keep with the top performers in a high productivity environment, but they are going to handle stressful environments better. Often times these products are priced very economically for this very reason, which increases ROI on a tough acre.
And the winner is…
Whether it be a top performer, consistent contender or a defensive champ, they all could have a part to play in an operation and all be winners. No, I’m not saying they all get a trophy, but I am saying they all have their place and have their reason for considerations. Product placement is just as important as any other decision-making process and I hope this helps shed some light on how to evaluate some of the plot data you will see this fall.