Unplanned Strip Trials – Seeing Mishaps as Opportunities
This has certainly been an interesting growing season. Each growing season presents itself with new challenges, and an opportunity to learn something new. Some of these are planned, some are surprises.
A few weeks ago I was out side-dressing Nitrogen, and I noticed a section of the field where the corn was shorter and a bit paler in color. I called Dad to ask if something special was going on that he knew about, and he mentioned while planting that he got a flat tire on the contact tire that drives the fertilizer pump (we put on about 30lbs of N at planting, and side-dress the balance needed for the year). He made a few rounds before he saw it, so a few acres of the field were shorted of N. So, I increased the rate for the section of the field to ensure we had enough Nitrogen for the season.
On our farm, we call these situations “unplanned strip trials” (not a mistake). By recording where I applied more Nitrogen at side-dressing, we can determine if the crop was held back by not having Nitrogen applied during the early growing season. While these are not very structured tests in terms of replications, we can use this information to tell us if the way we apply nitrogen now with split application is worth our extra time and effort while planting.
To put some additional numbers to this, we could also use SMS Mobile and the OptRx sensor to track the changes in crop health as the season progresses. We have done a fair amount of trials over the years, and use the results to improve our bottom line. Some of the questions we are going to be looking to answer include: “Since I applied more Nitorgen later in the season in this area, will it stay greener, longer as the crop matures? Since the rest of the field has always had Nitrogen during the growing season, will the ears be more consistent, and/or larger in diameter? Finally, will there be any yield difference with these two areas? If there is no difference in yield, was it due to the weather this year?”
Whatever the results, we will continue to do additional trials as we always have to keep learning and Ag Leader tools help make this an easier, more accurate process.