Toward an effective approach for on-farm experimentation: lessons learned from a case study of fertilizer application optimization in Japan

Takashi S.T. Tanaka, Taro Mieno, Ryoya Tanabe, Tsutomu Matsui, David S. Bullock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


On-farm experimentation (OFE) is increasing worldwide. Appropriate OFE procedures may differ depending on the characteristics and circumstances surrounding farms, such as climate, field conditions, farm size, degree of agricultural digitalization, and a farmer’s socioeconomic background. This study aims to guide the future development of OFE in Japanese grain farming by examining the experimental setup, data analysis, and farmers’ activities within their socioeconomic and institutional communication and learning networks. The results of this typical OFE case study, which estimates a field’s economically-optimal fertilizer variable-rate application map for winter wheat production, are reported. The outcomes of the case study, which are intended to guide the direction of OFE development in Japan, were used as reference materials for a survey taken while interviewing farmers who had never been involved in OFE. Farmers’ answers showed that the economic return of site-specific management depends on farm and field size and exhibits economies of scale. A very high share of the profit increases provided by OFE data came from improvements in field-specific uniform rate management, not from within-field site-specific management. The interviews revealed that farmers open to OFE are more interested in increasing rice crop quality to earn price premiums than in increasing yield. Increased engagement with farmers in conducting OFEs could play a key role not only in generating data to guide farmers’ input management but also in fostering farmer collaboration to develop marketing strategies. This study is the first to propose future orientations of OFE research that target typical moderately-sized Japanese grain farms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2044-2060
Number of pages17
JournalPrecision Agriculture
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2023


  • Field-specific yield
  • Rice
  • Variable-rate application
  • Wheat
  • Yield monitor
  • random forest

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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