With the rise of fake news stories, we’re unfortunately in a day and age where information can’t be trusted until we know where it’s from and if it’s accurate. This especially applies to farmers when it comes to company claims.

In early March, weed scientist Mark Loux posted a blog on the Ohio State University Weed Management website about a conflict between two “agrichemical giants” over an herbicide ad one of them ran that cited a study conducted by Ohio State and Purdue universities in 2016.

Referring to them as Large Company S and Large Company D, Loux explained how the ad that Company S ran claimed the Ohio State and Purdue study found its product resulted in a “yield advantage” over Company D’s product. Company D then asked Ohio State to review the ad for accuracy. The scientists found there was no significant difference in yield between the two products.

“Nonetheless, someone at Large Company S HQ decided to average yields between studies and create an ad that made it look as though there was high yield for their product,” Loux writes.

When confronted by the scientists, Company S admitted it ignored the statistics and figured no one would notice.

“We’ve been doing this for 25-plus years,” Loux says, “and have observed numerous instances where companies manipulated data somewhat or ignored statistics to create the story they want.”

He adds, “It’s a mistake to ever trust the yield results shown in herbicide ads.”

So what should you do if you’re interested in a product and want to know whether it’s worth the investment? If a company is citing a third-party source, as was the case with the herbicide ad, see if you can find the original study or research to determine if the results presented are accurate. We also recently published this article from South Dakota State University Extension on how to look at statistical analysis to separate fact from fiction.

But perhaps the most accurate way to determine how effective a product will be is to test it yourself. Randy Tholen commented on the SDSU article that he’s been doing on-farm research for the past 6 years and warns that growers should be very careful when buying products.

“It's all about marketing and all about the money for these companies selling the products,” he says. “They will come up with pictures and yield data for their product but in all these years of testing I have been unable to duplicate their claims.”

To learn how to conduct your own on-farm research, check out the article “10 Steps for On-Farm Research Success.”