Agronomy and Horticulture Department


Date of this Version

April 2004


Published in Field Crops Research 88 (2004) 9–10.


Science is challenged from time-to-time by claims that are completely outside the usual boundaries of observation and experience. Reports of flying saucers (unidentified flying objects) and creationism’s counter to evolution are two examples that fall into this category. Credentialed scientists can themselves become the victims of such phenomena when their research results are not evaluated through anonymous peer review as part of publication. The cold fusion debacle of a few years ago is an example of such a bypass of peer evaluation.

Unfortunately, agronomic science is not immune to such problems, particularly as they relate to claims of miraculously high crop yield. Reports of unconfirmed field observations (UFOs) must not be accepted as bases for agronomic understanding. Without critical evaluation, the UFO yields reported for the system of rice intensification (SRI) (Fernandes and Uphoff, 2002; Stoop et al., 2002) and grower’s yield contests (Evans, 1993; Waggoner, 1994) have both been taken by some as legitimate standards for assessing crop yield potential. The large yield increases claimed by Nonomura and Benson (1992) for spraying small amounts of methanol on plants is another UFO that is widely cited despite the fact that it was published in an unrefereed journal.