July 4, 2001 | By: Laura Skillman

Many Agriculture and Natural Resources agents with the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service plant a series of test plots on farms in their counties to aid farmers in future planting decisions.

This plot work is in addition to performance trials conducted statewide by the UK Agronomy Department.

By putting the plots on-farm, it allows farmers to see how these products fare in soil types within the area.

Hopkins County Extension Agent for Agriculture George Kelley said the test plots have been a part of his annual work since he began his tenure with the extension service.

"Companies release new materials every year and the test plots give farmers a chance to see these varieties," he said. "I've done it to help farmers identify new varieties and how they perform to our soil types and growing conditions."

Every year, Kelley publishes a crop production guide that includes results of the test plots, weather data and other financial management decision aids. The book contains a 10-year summary of Thursday closing grain and livestock prices and is sent to farmers in the county each winter.

Test plots have been done for decades in Daviess County, said Wayne Mattingly, Extension agent for agriculture and natural sciences. Mattingly said they are looked on as a valuable tool by the farm community.

"Farmers look to it as one source in variety decisions along with seed company and UK test plots and their own experiences," he said.

Mattingly said the plots in his county use the farmer's planter, combine and management skills so it is realistic as to what they can expect to duplicate in their fields. Which companies will be represented in the plots is determined by a farmer committee with the companies then selecting the varieties, he said.

"This is a good partnership with private industry," he said.

Mattingly and Kelly say the test plots give them the opportunity to talk with the farmers about what they are doing on their farm and see the latest technology being used.

"It's a nice inroad to a lot of other areas we can work on together," Mattingly said.

In Henderson County, Mike Smith said if his county is not home to one of the statewide trials which rotate from county to county, he does his own. This year the county is host to the state corn trials.

"I think it is important to have some kind of consistent plot work to get consistent averages," he said.

Smith said he is also finding more farmers in his area choosing to do their own variety trials.

"I think farmers, regardless of how the data is presented, view data from their own farm as the best," he said.

Kelley and Smith say it is important for farmers to review as much information on hybrid performance as they can when determining what to plant in their farm fields in the coming year.

"I think variety trials are real important and producers that I feel do the best job in selecting hybrids use that data," Smith said.


George Kelly, (270) 821-3650; Wayne Mattingly, (270) 685-8480; Mike Smith, (270) 826-8387