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Farm research often distorted, adviser says


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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/1/2014 (1252 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Information has always been the most important tool for any farmer, but as technology continues to change, making sure that data is accurate becomes paramount.

Terry Buss, a farm production adviser with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, spoke to a number of producers yesterday at Manitoba Ag Days in Brandon about "What’s Real? What’s Not? Understanding Agronomy Research."

Jakob Erlandson climbs down from a John Deere combine during the Manitoba Ag Days at the Keystone Centre on Wednesday.


Jakob Erlandson climbs down from a John Deere combine during the Manitoba Ag Days at the Keystone Centre on Wednesday.

Buss said in many cases, numbers can become distorted or have no value if the study or experiments are not being controlled properly.

Variability in seeding rate, fertility programs and topography can render some research useless, he said. Furthermore, if there is no statistical evidence and confidence level provided with the outcome, the results are nothing more than numbers on a page.

More concerning is that, at times, the results are misleading.

"They often use phrases that sound like statistical analysis, but aren’t," Buss said.

While research will always play a pivotal role on the farm, many producers are using technology to help solve problems internally.

For centuries, the farm has been one of the largest science experiments on Earth, but often data was difficult to read, confusing or sometimes lost.

A new web-based application released last year from Farm Credit Canada is trying to aggregate that data and provide a road map for decisions and savings for producers into the future.

"It provides better management decisions and tools so the farmer can look back three years ago and see exactly what happened and where they can improve where they are overspending and what didn’t give them the most return," FCC senior product specialist Matthew Van Dijk said.

Other companies have also invested in the technology, but Van Dijk said it’s important to know what features the products have and what the consumer is signing up for upon purchase.

Some companies may sell data or market to the farmer based on information gathered through the application.

"For us, the producers own all their own data," an Van Dijk said. "There is no mining or marketing of that data. We pride ourselves on the farmer owning his or her data. And with a lot of the free applications that you see on the market, it’s always how they monetize it and often it’s in the fine print."

Ag Days wraps up today at the Keystone Centre.

» ctweed@brandonsun.com


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