4 Secrets to Successful Test Plots | Corteva Agriscience
 9/29/2021

4 Secrets to Successful Test Plots

Test plots

2 retailer ambassadors discuss how they create test plots to help customers make good input decisions.

Helping your customers make the right choices about the products and practices they use each season is likely one of your top priorities. For many ag retailers, one good way to help farmers make those decisions is by creating test plots.

Why Use Test Plots?

Joe Dee and Hovey Tinsman are two retailer ambassadors for the Corteva Agriscience nitrogen stabilizers portfolio. Dee is an agronomist at Ag Partners Coop in Morristown, Minnesota. Tinsman is the president and retail sales manager of Liqui-Grow, which is based in Davenport, Iowa.

Both Dee and Tinsman say they create test plots to help customers decide on the right solutions to get the best yield and, ultimately, the best return on their investments each year.

“They’re great support tools to use during the main selling season. It validates the decision-making for the customer. It helps them figure out what will be the best economic benefit on their farm, what will be the top yield for the least amount of capital input,” Tinsman says.

Dee adds: “It starts with me and trusting a product. Once I feel comfortable with a product and know there’s a positive return, I’ll take it to the grower, and we’ll start trialing it on their farm. For a lot of farmers, seeing is believing, and some will want to do that test plot to make sure it’s right for their farm.”

“It validates the decision-making for the customer. It helps them figure out what will be the best economic benefit on their farm, what will be the top yield for the least amount of capital input.”

Test Plot Tips

Once you and your customer decide to create a test plot, how do you make sure the test is as successful as possible? Dee and Tinsman offer four tips that are their secrets to test plot success:

  1. Pick the Right Location — The first step to creating the right test plot is to choose a good location. This means finding acres that can provide the cleanest results. “You need to try to limit the variables of what’s going on on that plot. Try to find an area that’s representative of the field. It’s a good idea to find a spot with good drainage, no holes, no issues where it could skew data and conclusions,” Dee explains.
  2. Do Several Tests — When it comes to the tests themselves, another good move is to break the test plot down into several smaller areas or experiments. That way you can get a better understanding of the data overall. “Let’s say you’re comparing two treatments,” Tinsman says. “You should try to perform a minimum of four — ideally, you would do eight — actual tests. Let’s say you’re working with an 80-acre plot, you would break it down into 10-acre sections. You want to keep the tests or experiments close to each other, so the soil variability is as minimal as possible.”
  3. Keep it Simple — Another piece of advice is to keep the test plots simple. “You also don’t want to do too much in one place, meaning test too many new products in one plot,” Dee says. “I’ll have growers who try to stack on different things, and you won’t be able to get good data on any of the products that way.”
  4. Repeat the Process — Finally, it’s a good idea, especially when testing products like nitrogen stabilizers or practices like nitrogen applications, to do more than one year of testing. “It’s to create year-over-year support information to validate what you’re recommending,” Tinsman says. “It’s important to have repeatable results year over year, because one year could be a fluke, good or bad. So, you need to have a longer-term trend, which, I would argue, needs to be at least three, maybe five years.”

 

“It’s to create year-over-year support information to validate what you’re recommending.”

 

Test plots can be an excellent tool to help farmers make good choices and optimize their ROI. But like any tool, they need to be used correctly to be beneficial. These are just a few pieces of advice to keep in mind when helping your customers this season and beyond.