University plot trials provide key results

Phil DeVillez doesn’t pretend to think anyone would make planting decisions based solely off university trials. But he is dedicated to making sure results are a good tool in a farmer’s toolbox.

DeVillez manages corn and soybean hybrid and variety trials for Purdue University. The state is split into three regions — north, central and south. Within each region, there are four sites for corn, with three replications each, and three sites for soybeans, with four replications.

Key Points

University test plots provide an independent source of results.

Corn hybrids and soybean varieties are selected and entered by companies.

Results are available year-round on the plot program website.

Companies pay $250 to enter a hybrid or variety in a region. “They bring us the seed, so we assume they bring their best,” DeVillez says. “Each plot is treated the same, so all entries get a fair shot.”

DeVillez urges farmers to nominate favorite hybrids or varieties through their companies. Which ones a company enters is strictly up to it.

Visit website

There are results on the plot website continuously. As new results come in each fall, they are posted to replace the previous year’s results. Visit

“We see our data as another tool,” DeVillez notes. “Part of the farmer-seed dealer relationship is trust. This gives the seed dealer independent data for the person who wants to know more about how a hybrid or variety performs.”

Some may wonder if results from such an odd year have values. “We certainly believe they do,” DeVillez says. “We saw extremes in our plots, from a very good continuous corn plot near Washington to very poor plots at the Northeast Indiana Purdue Ag Center.

“This past year gave producers a chance to see what hybrids and varieties can do under severe stress. The goal is to look for ones that perform consistently near the top.”

Multistate data adds credibility

Thanks to Bill Foster, the technician who works with Phil DeVillez, the Purdue plot trials website offers a multistate comparison with data from five states. Other cooperating states that operate independent testing programs include Kentucky, Illinois, Michigan and Ohio.

You want to find products which are most consistent over a variety of environmental conditions, DeVillez observes. “Since conditions are so variable, the top-yielding hybrid or variety is considered 100%, and others are reported as a percentage of the best.”

If you stick with hybrids or varieties performing 92% of the best, you should be zeroing in on consistency, he says.

“It’s particularly valuable if you farm near a border,” DeVillez says. “Varieties you’re looking at may be in plots in two states, both about the same distance from you.

“What you’re looking for is consistency across a variety of conditions. Having a chance to look at how a hybrid or variety performed in several independent trials instead of one gives you a better handle on consistency.”


Plot master: Phil DeVillez’s job is to make sure corn and soybean trials are planted and harvested correctly.

This article published in the January, 2012 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2012.