SD producers value trials
Throughout each growing season, Steve Weerts enjoys watching his crops grow and mature. But the real thrill comes after harvest, when yield results are in and he can see how his inputs and management practices paid off.
“I enjoy seeing results from what I do each day. Harvest is a time when you can see how the decisions you made at the beginning of the year work out. Of course, Mother Nature plays a role in that, too,” says Weerts, of Bancroft, S.D.
Weerts, a fifth-generation producer, farms with his dad, Eugene, and uncle, Erland. The men run a diversified operation with a cow-calf herd and cattle feedlot. They also raise corn, soybeans, wheat and alfalfa.
Once harvest is complete, Weerts cross-checks how the varieties he grew compare to variety-trial results from South Dakota State University’s Crop Performance Testing program. Based on what he discovers, Weerts decides what seed to buy for the coming year.
“We think there is a lot of value in seeing how different varieties perform in our area,” Weerts says.
Because the SDSU result comes from an impartial local source, Weerts knows he can trust it.
Providing farmers with local and unbiased yield results on seed varieties sold in South Dakota is the focus of the SDSU Crop Performance Testing program. It’s a cooperative effort between SDSU Extension and SDSU Experiment Station.
“Although seed companies run their own seed trials throughout the state, this program acts as an unbiased third-party to provide additional information to South Dakota farmers,” says Nathan Mueller, a former SDSU Extension agronomist. He took a similar position at with the University of Nebraska Extension Service.
The nine crops tested in SDSU’s program are corn, soybeans, spring wheat, winter wheat, oats, field peas, sorghum, sunflower and flax. Trials are set up in farmers’ fields across the state t so farmers can get a clear picture of how varieties perform in their soil type and growing conditions. Weerts is one of the participants.
When setting up trials in farmers’ fields like Weerts,’ SDSU agronomists ensure that all varieties are treated the same. The test plot is in the middle of the farmer’s field. SDSU Crop Performance Testing staff plant all the plots using the same equipment.
Because the plots are in the middle of the cooperator farmer’s fields, they receive the same treatment as the rest of the crop: the same fertility plan, herbicides and pesticides. Cooperator farmers keep records of their management practices and share these with testing program staff.
Trials are also conducted on three SDSU research stations in eastern South Dakota.
Seed varieties or hybrids tested in the trial are sent in by private as well as public seed providers. Each corn, soybean, sunflower, spring wheat and winter wheat variety entered in the trial has an entrance fee paid by the participating companies to help cover the costs of the program.
As harvest results came in this fall, yield results from each variety and test plot are posted on igrow.org for the public to view.
This article published in the November, 2014 edition of DAKOTA FARMER.
All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2014.
Photo courtesy of SDSU.