Recently the crew at the Throckmorton Purdue University Ag Center near Romney, Ind., harvested a joint plot between Indiana Prairie Farmer and Purdue University Extension. The plot was replicated, and looked at differences in two hybrids, plus planting depths for corn.
There was one problem. The field-size trials were on a field that had a couple of low spots. Even though they were tiled, heavy late-May rains after corn emerged took out corn in a few cases. So that ruined the plot, right?
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No, thanks to modern computer software. After harvest, all the data was sent to Bob Nielsen, the Purdue University corn specialist who operates the Chat'n Chew Café on the Web. It's a virtual "everything you need to know about corn" site, and has been for nearly 30 years.
Nielsen uses various software packages to "clean up the data." There's so much even this software can't do, he says. But one thing that he can do is remove wet spots. What happens is, yields that were truly produced by the treatment (and not drowned out) become evident. The map has empty spots, but the calculations are based on the places where corn was produced.
Is it foolproof? Probably not. There is always the perimeter effect of a wet spot, meaning that the areas leading into or out of it may also have been affected. Knowing where to draw that line looking at data can be tough. '
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What it does is allow statistics to be used with confidence on a plot where water affected certain strips. Would it have been better if the soil was so uniform there were no water spots? Sure. Is it still reasonable data you can make conclusions from after cleaned up in software to account for the missing areas of stand? It certainly appears to be!
For more corn news, corn crop scouting information and corn diseases to watch for, follow Tom Bechman's column, Corn Illustrated Weekly, published every Tuesday.