If claims for non-traditional plant protection or fertility products seem too good to be true, trust your gut.

“We see a lot of non-traditional nutrient products in the marketplace,” says Mark McFarland, Texas A&M agronomist. “Unfortunately, research results on most of these products have not lived up to the billing.”

McFarland, manning a fertility stop during the 40th annual Stiles Farm Field Day near Thrall, said farmers should run their own tests on products before they risk substantial acreage.

“Don't use a whole field,” he said. “Apply the material in strips like we do in test plots. Apply the product to one strip and leave it off an adjacent strip. And do that in several locations.”

Other than the product application, he says, growers should treat all plots the same, so if a change does appear, they can tell what caused it.

“And if you can't see a difference, it ain't there,” he said.

McFarland recommended that yield and quality difference should be the benchmark, not just in-season plant appearance. “The reason farmers should use a product is to pay for itself plus make a little profit.”

If it can't do that, folks waste their time and money.

McFarland said farmers can find a number of non-traditional products: soil conditioners, growth enhancers and microbial stimulants.

“We'll run some tests on them here at the station,” he said. “We've heard of some that we can't figure out how they are supposed to work. The key is to test them,” he said.

The Stiles Farm is a 3,000-acre Texas A&M research facility.