Experts provide seed plot management tips

Farm Forum

GREENSBORO, N.C. – A healthy, productive crop starts with the right seed. While researchers steadily work to create new corn hybrids, growers continue to ask the same question: How will they perform on my farm? Nothing answers that question better than a local seed plot, and no time is better to start planning plots for 2015 than now. Syngenta experts throughout the Corn Belt provide the following best practices to keep in mind throughout the season:

Before Planting

• Begin with the end in mind. “Ask yourself what you want to observe: Yield differences? Disease resistance differences? Seed treatment differences? Then build your trial around that,” said Douglas Kirkbride, Syngenta field project specialist in Illinois. “Often we try to do too many things in one trial. Yes, you can do several things, but you have to keep the data separate.”

• Make a written plan. “When you have a protocol on paper rather than from memory, you’re more likely to execute it well,” said Syngenta scientist Mark Hamilton from Iowa. “Having the plan before rolling the planter out of the shed is an important detail to work out at your desk.”

• Focus on uniformity. “Some fields have small areas with variable conditions,” said Duane LeFord, Syngenta field science expert in South Dakota. “In those cases, the plants don’t get the same treatment.” Plot managers should make sure crop rotation, moisture, soil composition, tillage and pesticide/fertilizer application are all the same. Uniformity creates confidence in trial results, and confidence is what allows for accurate predictions of future performance.

During the Season

• Keep a plot journal. “Especially when you have multiple people involved, it’s good to schedule a farm meeting after planting the plot and write down what happened,” Kirkbride said.

• Write down observations during the season. “How is the plant standing? Did it stay intact? How was the early vigor? It’s not just about yield, but harvestability,” said Syngenta Head of Technical Training and Resources Chris Cook from Minnesota.

• Note entry differences and discuss them. “Become an objective observer,” Hamilton said. “Then communicate those product observations to dealers, agronomists and neighbors.” Multiyear evaluations are another way to increase the power of the data.

After Harvest

• Be mindful of making like comparisons. “It’s not fair to compare insect-resistant hybrids to non-insect-resistant hybrids,” Cook said. “They’re different technologies.” Also be sure to compare products of similar maturity.

• Fill out trial planting forms as completely and as soon as possible. “Any kind of notes and as much information as you can enter are helpful,” Cook said. “This exercise provides more ways to cut up that data.”

• Get help with data analysis. Knowing what differences are statistically significant requires some calculation. The iYield system, which is an internal Syngenta program that summarizes plot results, can help. “Retailers and growers can contact their local Syngenta representative and get reports from the iYield system, with statistically significant differences bolded and underlined,” Kirkbride said. “Or they can submit raw data from their own trials to the iYield database for calculation.”

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