A new season brings a new opportunity to test those theories that you have stored in the back of your mind or to test the questions you want to answer in the year ahead.
The only way to properly analyse whether your management practices are delivering the best outcome is to monitor them. In some cases, the best way to do this is to set up a basic trial to assess whether a particular strategy you are implementing is successful. If you are interested in setting up a trial in your block to test the effectiveness of a new method or product on your orchard, now is a great time to start planning.
It could be as simple as looking at two areas, side-by-side to gauge what works well and what does not on your orchard. However, having numbers to go with this will give you a quantitative difference of what you are looking at. For example, if you applied a dormancy breaker to your crop, did you leave an un-sprayed control area so that you can assess the benefit?
It usually doesn’t take long to set up control areas in the orchard and the rewards are significant. When selecting a control area, remember to select an area that is representative of the block, clearly identify the area and leave an appropriate buffer zone for spray trials. If you want to do statistical analysis, you will need to replicate your treatments throughout the block, but a single un-treated control area will normally give you a valuable comparison.
If you are wanting a more detailed answer to your theory, make sure to spend some time on the experimental design, as good preparation leads to good meaningful results with less margin for error and wasted resource. This includes thinking about how many replicates, measurements, and the site selection.
Think about how you will measure the results, and how you will analyse the data, who will analyse the data? Also, when is the best time to take measurements?