Part of a substrate trial’s success is the planning that goes into it. If you start a trial without a clear goal in mind and without making the right resources available it is sure to be a waste of time and money. You need to make sure you gather clear data in order to make an informed decision afterwards and get the best out of your substrate trial.
Reliability of suppliers
If you want to invest in a trial you should be sure that the quality of the substrates you use during your test is the same as the quality you will get from future orders. This means it’s important to work with a reliable supplier that can guarantee constant quality and properties.
Clear goals for your substrate trial
Always start with a clear goal. Think well about why you want to conduct these test and what types of substrates you want to compare. Write this down and also add what you expect or hope to see?
If you are hoping to solve specific issues by switching to a different substrate, make sure to list them and to set up a good trial process for it.
Reasons to trial new substrates could be:
- Saving water or fertiliser
- Increasing or decreasing watering frequency
- Increasing or decreasing drainage
- Slowing down or speeding up dry out phase
- Get more control over pH-levels
- Switching to different types of fertiliser.
Compare the right things
Make sure to run the trial on both your current mixture and the trial mixture to be able to compare results. You don’t need to treat the different mixtures exactly the same if you want to be able to change your own practices, but do make sure to treat all mixtures of the same type the same.
If you need advice on trialing our products, just contact our sales advisors.
Allocate time, space and people
Before starting a trial, make sure you think about its timing and the resources required. You don’t want to run out of time or space halfway through. Therefore you should schedule ahead and pick a good time to conduct the trial. What works well for most growers is to conduct trials at the beginning of the ending of the season.
Aim to keep the trial in the same location at all times and clearly label all of your trial pots. In some cases growers actually lose track of their trial because they have to move it unexpectedly.
Also think well about the size of your trial. Depending on the size of your business and the resources you have available you should make it as big as possible. Important differences may seem insignificant in small trials, but can end up costing you a lot on bigger scale.
Finally, make sure to dedicate a team or a head grower to the trial. Don’t underestimate the time it takes to properly collect and register data on a weekly basis. This can take up 3 hours a week easily.
Substrate trial and data collection
By giving a specific person responsibility over the trial you make sure data will be recorded in the same way and you have a smaller chance of comparing apples to pears. Make sure to pay attention to details and to take pictures of relevant differences.
In our next article we will cover more tips on how to make sure your data collection helps you make unbiased decisions at the end of the trial.