How Good Research Equipment Provides Consistent Data

- Tamra Boucher

Data drives decision-making. The very nature of research demands that data be consistent across platforms, locations, plants, harvests, processes and more. One thread we hear from customers is that it is important to use the same data collection systems across test plots so data comparison is on a level field, so to speak. Or, in other words, you are comparing like data to like data — kind of like apples to apples, not apples to oranges.

What are some consequences that can result from inconsistent data? Our customers are making important decisions regarding genetics, chemical applications, and various processes. If the data is inconsistent from plot-to-plot or field-to-field, then the data can lead to inaccurate analysis, potentially leading to wrong choices. If the data collection process does not accurately reflect the actual conditions of the plant, the stand, or the harvest, then a researcher cannot accurately assess the veracity of the factors that are being studied.

For example, if a genetic trait is being assessed for drought tolerance, it is important that the test weight and moisture measurement of each plot is consistently measured and recorded from field-to-field and day-to-day. Conclusions are reached by analyzing performance across locations and environments. You can see that if data is not consistently collected, inaccurate conclusions can be made.

Calibration affects consistency. Even if the moisture reading you get in the field doesn’t match a moisture reading you get at a grain elevator, this is OK. What is important is that the readings you get are consistent. These are the results that will ultimately be compared and analyzed at the end of the season, so they must be accurate against each other.

What questions should you ask a solutions provider to ensure you’re getting good equipment that can help in these areas? Ask about calibration: how is it calibrated, how often does it need to be checked, how easy is it to calibrate? I would also ask how transportation impacts the data collection equipment; are there components that are affected by the impacts of transport?

It is important to have a basic understanding of how the equipment is collecting data — are there contact sensors, are there parts that are subject to wear and, if so, how often do they need replaced?

Armed with this knowledge, you can purchase good equipment that will do the job you need it to.