On-farm research: getting the most from a strip trial
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On-farm research can be a powerful tool for farmers wishing to establish the true value of new and emerging technology for their own operation. It requires that farmers develop an understanding of how experimental design and data analysis are required to make sound decisions, given the biological variability characteristic of our environment. The development of global positioning systems (GPS) and yield monitors have the potential to significantly improve the ease with which on-farm testing is carried out. The ability to georeference the application of treatments, collection of data during the growing season, and align specific landscape positions with topographic variation in the field, will permit the interpretation of data at both the field and landscape element level. While the time required to establish and collect data from the field trials may be reduced, it will likely be more than offset by the time required to organize, analyse and interpret the results prior to making appropriate decisions. There are several issues that should be addressed in the future to facilitate the growth of on-farm testing: 1. There is a need to develop skills amongst farmers involved in on-farm testing, allowing them to efficiently use the technology available. In particular, the use of GIS software to integrate all of the information which will be collected, and methods of extracting data from field maps for analysis. 2. We need to develop a “clearing house” for new and emerging research and methods in the use of Precision Farming technology in Saskatchewan. Research results need to be presented to allow for testing on-farm, and we need a forum where the experience of producers can be shared and further developed. 3. Remote sensing has the potential to have the greatest impact on precision farming through its identification of site specific pest problems. The development and application of remote sensing technology to the expansive agriculture characteristic of Saskatchewan requires immediate attention.
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