Phil Devillez and his technician spend every day, all year long, making sure that hybrids and varieties in their area, Indiana, get planted in fair tests all around the state. Many other universities do the same. Companies pay to be in these tests, and the results are published whether one company looks favorable or not.
"We look at our results as a tool," DeVillez says. "You've got many other sources of information. We hope you would use our test results as another source. It's an independent test of hybrids and varieties entered by companies. The companies pay per entry to be in the test, but once we receive the seed, we are in total control of the plots."
In his case, plots are conducted at multiple locations, some on university farms, and an equal number of farmer-cooperator farms. They're spread around the state to give different maturities a shot to perform to their best ability. Plots at each site are replicated.
As soon as he gets results, he posts them on the site, replacing the same category from a year ago. So you may find 2010 results and 2011 results on the site at the same time. Once all the plots are finished, all the results will reflect 2011 findings.
Purdue maintains the only site DeVillez knows of that also includes tables of multi-state data. All neighboring states conduct similar university hybrid and variety trials. All of the data is uploaded to the Purdue Web site, so you can see what a hybrid or variety is doing in another state. That can be particularly helpful if you're buying from an out-of-state company, or if you live reasonably close to a testing location in another state.
Some may think that due to poor weather conditions in 2011, especially in the Eastern Corn Belt, the results might not be worth tabulating this year. DeVillez disagrees wholeheartedly. It's not a good year for some farmers, he says,. But it's a good year for testing. These kinds of years set the extremes. This one sets the low end. Hopefully, within a five-year period, a good season will be at the top end.
"It really shows what hybrids and varieties can do under stressful environments," he says. "We certainly see a lot of value in factoring in this year's data as you make decisions."