Digital Ag Advancements Enable Split-Planting Trials That Pay Off

by Sam Eathington, Chief Scientist, The Climate Corporation

August 2, 2018

On-farm field experimentation matters for the bottom line. Last year, farmers who ran split-planting field trials, with two different seeds planted side-by-side in the same planter pass, saw an average yield differential of eight bushels per acre.*

With all the best planning, recommendations, and crop management practices, there’s still nothing that replaces empirical on-farm data.

This year, early data shows that almost half — 45 percent — of Climate FieldView™ customers are running split-planting trials. Up substantially from the 2017 growing season, this increase in adoption marks a tipping point for the value of digital ag in regard to experimentation and crop performance insights.

On-farm trials aren't new. In my early days as a plant breeder, one of my fondest memories was helping my dad work a DEKALB® strip trial on the family farm. And decades earlier, my dad had done the same thing - albeit less data-driven back then - helping fellow farmers select the best hybrids for their fields.

Until recently, the tech for split planting trials remained pretty stagnant: elevator weigh-ins, anecdotal scouting and crop management notes from the field, weigh-wagons, and more recently, real-time yield monitoring. Advances in digital agriculture are changing the game for many operations, enabling zone-level management, from real-time planting information in the cab to hybrid performance at harvest time. And it’s not just planting that farmers can experiment with. FieldView customers are testing fertility treatments, fungicide applications, tillage impact and more.

I credit a few specific developments for the large percentage of digital ag users running split planting trials:

  • Broad compatibility — Equipment color matters less. FieldView has the broadest equipment connectivity in the industry, so you can run data on machines from many manufacturers and have all your data collected in one place.
  • Ease of use — Getting data from the field has gone from cumbersome to convenient. For example, Climate FieldView DriveTM installs quickly and seamlessly gathers equipment data for rapid analysis.
  • Field region reporting — Makes head-to-head comparisons anywhere throughout the field easy — to see which seed won on the most productive acre, as well as the least productive acre.

As the Chief Science Officer for The Climate Corporation, I look at these innovations and the explosion in digital ag adoption as proof that at our core, every farmer is a scientist. Growing up on the family farm, my dad was ever the keen observer of our fields, livestock, and equipment. As farmers, we have an innate curiosity about our crops. And whether it’s daily, over the season, or across years, we’re tinkerers adjusting practices and approaches to get the best possible result.

The 2018 growing season marks the first year that roughly 1 in 2 farmers are running split planting trials on FieldView. With the value, insights, and yield results coming out of these farm experiments, I have no doubt adoption will continue to climb as more farmers benefit from harnessing their data.

*Based on data from more than 10,000 split-planted corn fields of US Climate FieldView™ users during the 2017 growing season.

About The Author
Sam leads the Science organization at The Climate Corporation, focusing on research and development in data science, measurement and field research. He brings more than two decades of experience in plant breeding and global agricultural development, contributing to nearly 60 publications and patents related to agricultural technology. Sam holds a B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. in genetics and plant breeding from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.