Defining Goals and Specific Measurements

Tell the reviewers how you will conduct the work: when you will start the experiment (for example, in May 2020) and what procedures you will use. List the data you will collect and how you will collect them. Determining if cut flowers grow better is a goal, not measurable data. 

For example, do you mean 1) produce longer stems, 2) produce more stems, 3) produce higher quality/stronger stems, 4) produce harvestable stems earlier or later in the season when they generally are not available? The data for each of those variables would be stem length (1), stem number per plant or same-size bed (2), stem caliper or sales price [if higher quality= higher price] (3), and harvest dates (4).

Compare and Contrast

Be sure to compare the new treatment or process to the existing standard method/cultivar/procedure. You have heard the phrase 9 out of 10 dentists recommend Plaque-Rid for brushing your teeth. Compared to what? Not brushing your teeth? Using Jack Daniels as a mouthwash? In most studies you must include the standard control method and an untreated control to determine if the treatments actually had an effect. For example, the following might be a list of treatments for the yellow nutsedge study:

  1. New organic product
  2. New organic product at double rate
  3. Standard chemical product
  4. Standard cultural method—cursing and hand-weeding
  5. Control—no treatment

It is sometimes difficult to include appropriate control treatments. For example, if you are an organic grower, you won’t be able to include the standard chemical product. For example, the following might be a list of treatments for a postharvest experiment:

  1. New organic product
  2. New organic product at double rate
  3. Standard chemical product
  4. Untreated or water-only control

The Importance of Control Groups

Don’t forget the untreated control. Why leave some of the stems untreated? If you don’t, and the vase life for the first three treatments is very long, you might conclude that all the treatments are effective. If you have a control and you find out that the vase life was long for that treatment, then none of the treatments worked. Controls are required so the results of your treatments can be verified. Note that we can get opposite conclusions just by including proper controls.

Replication

Tell us how the treatments will be replicated across your farm or high tunnel or over time. For example, each of the weed control treatments could be applied to three different beds of zinnias. Why do this, which can take a lot of time and space? Because if you apply a treatment to only one location on the farm and it doesn’t work, you don’t know if it is the treatment or the fact that your dog used that portion of the bed as his own Facebook page.