Just as trade show season rolls around with regularity every year, so does summer tour season. This is a valuable opportunity for growers to get off the tractor, out of the fields, and into a situation where they can do some research and learning to keep up with improvements and new technologies in the industry. New varieties, advanced agronomic methods, precision agriculture, or developments in equipment – every season there is something new worth considering. Growers have a plethora of management decisions to make every year, and attending a field tour can go a long way to helping with the decision making.

Whoever is putting on the tour is making a significant investment to provide a learning opportunity. That retail, seed, or chemical company is also counting on your attendance at their event as a launch pad for their next year’s sales season. It’s a key tactic to bring growers through the field to see the product in action and compare it to local checks in a local environment. They are keen to build confidence in their region for their offerings.

The Prairies are a vast area. What works well in central Alberta may or may not work in eastern Saskatchewan.  Growers, agronomists, and retails want to see how new innovations perform under local conditions. This is the last step in providing the confidence to know that it will work on your farm.

Before attending a tour, there are some things you, the grower, can do to make the most of your experience. Firstly, why are you going: Are you researching a new variety? Do you want to make a switch and for what reasons? Let’s assume yield is table stakes, are you interested in disease resistance or an agronomic trait in a new variety?  Are you considering straight cutting canola?  Do you want to start growing soybeans? Or corn? The representatives at the tour will have lots of valuable advice and information available for you to see and to take home. There may be experts, like breeders or other specialists you can interact with. Use the tour as an occasion to network. Many crop tours present the opportunity to meet new growers and experts that can be useful to your operation down the road.

What do you want to come home with? Information? Data? An appointment to have a farm call from a representative? Give this some consideration so the day spent away from the farm is not a waste. If you are particularly interested in following up in a more detailed and hands-on way, you can likely arrange to have a farm visit after the tour to get more into detail on how the new technology would work for your farm.

The weight you give any tour in your decision-making process should depend on the quality of the trial. Is the trial replicated? Are the checks relevant to your area? How has the land been prepared for the trial? Does the cooperator and/or the trial manager have a good reputation for their unbiased approach to collecting quality data? This is very important because without unbiased data, confidence in the results is limited. Are all the results reported and easily available?  Are competitors treated fairly – is it truly an apples-to-apples comparison?

Be prepared when you attend the tour. Have your questions lined up and make sure you take advantage of all the expertise that might be present. Don’t be shy to ask your questions. The team presenting the tour will want to get the audience engaged in a conversation and discussion. If they don’t get any engagement, they will be disappointed. So, go ahead, get the ball rolling, and ask that first question.

When it comes to field trials and touring, you are the biggest attraction. The goal of local trials is to get growers out to evaluate the latest and greatest. By showing up on the day, you are putting yourself in the driver’s seat.