By Dave Nanda
You've invested the time to plant a test plot, whether it's a strip trial or small plot. Hopefully if it's a strip trial on your farm, you replicated the trial, perhaps working with a consultant or county Extension educator to help you randomize the treatments and set up the plot so you can tell something when you're finished."
Now you need to commit to getting the most value out of that plot. If you just drive by it once in a while and wait until next fall to walk into it, then pull in and combine it and record results, you've missed out on a golden opportunity to learn many important things.
What I suggest is taking notes, beginning soon after planting. You can take these notes on any field, even if you're planted a test plot or not. Notes w ill help you recall fields and situations next fall when you're trying to explain what did or didn't happen in a field.
Here are some of my suggestions. Look for more tomorrow.
Record emergence- You want to record the date of emergence when 50% of the plants in each hybrid or variety are out of the ground. Some hybrids tend to have an early stand establishment trait. This will help pick it up.
Study vigor- You can pick up differences in early vigor in hybrids only if you have various hybrids to compare to, and walk the plots. You will find distinct differences in vigor amongst hybrids and varieties.
Observe color- Are there differences in color of the seedlings that are merging from one hybrid vs. another hybrid? This is best to determine when seedlings are small. Some hybrids tend to be more prone to purpling than others.
Check for disease- It's early, but are any signs of susceptibility to disease already showing up? Diseases that show up early include Stewart's wilt in corn and phytophthora root rot in soybeans. In the case of phytophthora root rot, it is more likely to show up in certain spots of the field, particularly low, poorly drained locations.
You also see other root rots at work early in the season in soybeans, particularly if it stays cool and wet. Rhizoctonia is another culprit that can attack susceptible varieties early in the season. The characteristic of that disease is a brick-red lesion which forms near the base of the seedling. (Nanda is a crops consultant and director of genetics and technology for Seed Consultants, Inc.,)