A decades-old book, still the go-to guide for anyone doing agriculture field trials, is now available in digital form.

It doesn't matter whether the trial is on fertiliser use, efficacy of weed killer or crop yield, Conduct of Field Experiments by PD Lynch explains it all. And it's readable.

It sets out at the beginning the 'Basic requirements for a satisfactory experiment' so that the results discovered are meaningful.

It asks the person contemplating carrying out a field trial to consider if the question being asked is the right one and asked in the right way, if the method is the best given the circumstances and if the results will be accurate and adequate.

Advertisement

The following chapters go into careful detail, with photos, illustrations and tables to help the farmer or researcher carry out the task.

Statistical analysis is also explained carefully, while noting that any bias invalidates the results. It also gives tips on publishing findings.

Where different experimental techniques can be used, each method is provided, together with any precautions, drawbacks and advantages outlined.

Yes, this wee gem of a book is in imperial measurements (not many people even know what a 'link' is these days) but what it contains is still so relevant for researchers and interested farmers.

Advances have been made with regard to the equipment used, but the basic principles, the fundamental science, still stand.

In preparation for converting this publication to an online version, I was required to proof read it several times.

I found it an easy read, with the scientific thought explained in layman's terms.

All the methods are carefully explained, even mentioning what to do when mistakes are made ("the fact must be carefully and fully noted").

Advertisement

I cannot praise this publication enough. It should be essential reading for all research students, agronomists and interested farmers.

I am delighted the Fertiliser Quality Council took the time to resurrect and publish it online It had been revised and printed in Bulletin No399 of the New Zealand Department of Agriculture in 1966, but was hard to find.

Now it is freely available and can be downloaded at http://fertqual.co.nz/
- Ann Thompson is an executive director of the Fertiliser Quality Council