Rain Delay Throws Monkey Wrench into Plot Work

Will farmers take time for plots once it dries up?

Published on: May 4, 2011

Test plots on farms are important, most experts agree, and no doubt some will still put them out. But depending upon when the rain delay ends, how many will decide to run full bore and not do plots, or at least not make them a priority?

That answer may vary depending upon what the plot is, how easy it is or is not to do, and how much time it takes. And it may depend heavily upon when it's finally OK to run in the field. Throw on top of that fact that it isn't likely to be a clean start all across the state, but more likely a staggered start, and it's possible that how many plots go out may be a function of when someone starts, and how many acres they can get through once they start.

One farmer who had previously entertained the idea of an on-farm production trail for a production practice has already said that after May 15, if he hasn't started yet, then all bets are off and the objective is to get the crop planted, not concentrate on plots. Perhaps he would put a plot in late if it dries up and stays dried up once he can begin.

The rain has also interfered with plans for the Precision Planting/Indiana Prairie Farmer Plots at Purdue University's Throckmorton Research Center near Romney, in conjunction with the Tippecanoe County Extension Service. Last year was the first year for the plots, and weather delays and other factors forced planting into the last week of May.

The plan this year was to plant on two dates- one early, preferably between April 15 and May 1, and one later, near the end of May. The idea was to see if planting early affects factors related to seeding depth, downforce pressure on row units and planting speed. And it was to see if the results of planting late this year compared to last year, or if it is a function of specific years and the weather conditions that follow.

Now the plan is to get the first plot in by May 15, the second one by May 31. Time will tell whether this adjustment is realistic or not. Either way, at this point, the plots will go on. These are replicated, short distance plots on the research farm.

In the 'take heart' department, last year's results do speak well for the ability to produce good corn yields even planting late. Planted the last week of May, the plot averaged in the 190 bushel range, including plots that yielded significantly less because they were planted shallow. Some plots within the experiment yielded well over 200 bushels per acre.

To top all that off, there was damage from too much water in mid-June, weeds couldn't be sprayed until the seven-leaf stage of corn, and it quit raining in late July. So hang in there- there's still hope!