Doing Research Where It Really Matters

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NISKU

There’s no denying the benefit of government, university or industry research, but it’s rarely done where you can assess its value – right on your farm. That’s where you can come in, by borrowing some of the techniques from the pros.

Your own research can offer a little independence rather than relying on information from those who have vested interests, and offers a chance to collaborate with friends, retailers, neighbours and agronomists, says Roger Andreiuk, a Leduc-based agronomist with Reduced Tillage Linkages.

Andreiuk told the Canola College here that one of the first things to do is to find a good research partner. A partner can help with statistical design and monitoring, and help identify potential problems and solutions. The objective should be clear and easy to identify and only one variable should be tested during a trial.

Andreiuk said selecting a proper location is key, as picking uniform ground can minimize natural variation. He suggests spending time to create plot layouts and maps for proper data analysis. Yield maps and aerial photos can also play an important role in research design.

Do it more than once

Replicating the test three times can account for any variabilities in data. Andreiuk advised producers to pay attention when laying our their research plots so that they can finish the rest of their work without affecting other plots in the field.

Randomization is also important. This factor allows for treatments to be tested in different test plots on the field in order to account for variations in the landscape.

The next step is to design and plot the treatment layout and the order of treatments to be tested well ahead of time, to minimize confusion and cut out the delay of seeding of harvest. “Be able to replicate the treatments, and use randomization,” said Andreiuk.

Global positioning systems are extremely helpful in marking test plots, he said.

The testing should be followed by proper record keeping and data collection, which will help answer the central objective of the research.

Andreiuk cautioned producers that they may have to plan for two years of data to find the results of their tests, and that additional outside data, such as the amount of rainfall, may help determine answers to the research question.

“It’s amazing what you can see through the season that might explain the numbers you get in the end,” he said.

Examining the plots thoroughly throughout the year might also help account for discrepancy in data. Andreiuk advised producers to spend a lot of time doing the data analysis and evaluation, and to get a statistical analysis for best results.

About the author

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Alexis Kienlen

Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for Alberta Farmer since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, Alexis is also the author of two collections of poetry, a biography, and a novel called "Mad Cow."

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