How To Turn Your Farm Into a Research Farm

January 17, 2013 07:01 AM

A few basic precision ag tools and some persistence is all it takes.

On-farm research is a valuable way to get highly local, relevant information that can help you improve your farming operation. And Randy Taylor, Oklahoma State University professor and machinery Extension specialist, says setting up on-farm research might be easier than some people realize.

"We can turn your entire farm into a research farm if you have variable-rate equipment and a yield monitor without even slowing down your operation," he says. "We can deal with the data later."

Taylor adds that on-farm research shouldn’t be confused with on-farm demonstrations.

"The purpose of an on-farm demonstration is to show you a technology that has already been proven through research," he says. "It’s not to answer questions – it’s to showcase that something works."

On-farm research, on the other hand, gives farmers to ask a question of interest that is site-specific and get it answered. The best questions involved a yes/no or A/B answer, such as asking whether inoculated soybeans yield better than un-inoculated beans, or if herbicide A performs better than herbicide B, Taylor says.

Interpreting data can be challenging, but if farmers get their agronomist, consultant or Extension specialist involved early in the process, they can all work together to design a study that has the best chance to succeed. The most common pitfall is adding too many variables into the study, Taylor says.

"Keep it simple," he says. "These trials require time, energy and money, and the last thing you want to do is implement it poorly or make it so complicated you can’t analyze the results."

Despite the effort involved, Taylor says on-farm research can help answer questions that could lead to profitable results.

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