Research plots that are large enough to accommodate regular farm machinery are thought to contain too much field variation to allow reliable interpretation of experimental results. This study was conducted to determine whether experimental error was controlled on a wide variety of agricultural field trials that used plots larger than normally used by researchers. The investigation included trials conducted on an experiment station and trials conducted on actual commercial farms. The planning and management of the experiments ranged from those completely conducted by university researchers to those completely done by farmers.
The level of experimental error in all the trials was well within the limits normally accepted by researchers in agronomy. Plots ranging in length from 125 to 1200 feet and as wide as one or two passes of standard farm machinery gave experimental results that were statistically sound. Statistical requirements for randomization and replication were all met.
The ability to use large plots and farmer participation enhances the testing of new technology on farms. This leads to new opportunities to test crop production factors in a systems setting under actual farm conditions. The statistical reliability of the on-farm designs analyzed in this study should increase cooperation among researchers, extension workers, and farmers in research activities.