The use of strip trials to demonstrate how a new practice or product performs in a local environment is becoming more and more widespread. Growers are very interested to see how new innovations perform in their local area before they make a big investment.
Strip trials are becoming a larger part of the marketing process at the retail level as well, addressing this preference of growers to see first, then buy. But even beyond that, growers are using strip trials on their own farms to get an up-close and very personal look at how a new variety performs right beside a proven, if possibly, aged performer.
Strip trials should be kept as simple as possible with only one or two treatments – one standard practice or product, and the other the new product or practice. Ideally, the strips should be replicated across the field. This will help to eliminate any variability in the field: low spots or other land variances.
Side-by-side trials are the most reliable way to see how the two varieties or treatments stack up. Taking a strip trial to yield will mean having a yield monitor or using a weigh wagon to measure results. Strip trials are often taken to yield and the results published and available through the retail.
To discuss the importance of strip trials, we chatted with Rick Storoschuk, sales agronomist with GJ Chemical in Manitoba. “Soybean strip trials, or strip trials for any commodity, are an important way to understand how a new product is going to perform in your own backyard,” explains Storoschuk. “As a sales agronomist, I have to be confident that what I am recommending to my grower clients will work for them. They are looking to me to help them with their decision making, not give them a sales pitch.”
As well as engaging growers in the results at the end of the season, Storoschuk gets a lot of value out of touring growers through the trials in season. “A tour gives me and my growers a really great chance to get into the crop and evaluate it,” he says. “There’s no substitute for this hands-on experience. It can create both confidence and excitement if the product is promising. Or it can be a really easy way to see what is not going to work.”
When it comes to soybeans in particular, Storoschuk says that growers are most interested in maturity first and foremost, and then pod height. “Without knowing the maturity compared to what they are already growing, most guys won’t be comfortable to try it,” says Storoschuk. “With the confidence they gain by seeing it in a trial, most will try a lot more acres than they would if they didn’t.”
Storoschuk is committed to improving the bottom line for his growers. “By providing reliable advice on what varieties to choose, as an example, then I am providing a valuable service. The value of these local trials is really critical.”
Those growers that put the strip trials out on their land are very important. “Our cooperators tend to be really engaged with us in the entire process,” he says. “They take that extra care in seeding and in maintaining the strips throughout the season. Generally, they’ll place them by a highway, which is great for visibility. At harvest, we’ll come in with a weigh wagon. The cooperators also provide us with a tremendous amount of information about the trial – emergence, observations about the in-field operations, and how well the variety is to harvest. Invaluable information.”
The yield data is important, Storoschuk notes, but it’s not as important as the in-season performance. Touring growers and staff through the fields in the summer is where many decisions are made about whether or not to give something new a try or not.