With the increasing popularity of nontraditional produvcts, such as soil inoculants and plant growth regulators, also comes host of claims.

A group of Ohio State University Extension specialists warn that before you buy and try these products, you may want to look at university research.

"A concept may sound plausible, but the efficacy of a product or practice may be unproven," says, peter Thomison, an Extension agronomist based in Wooster. "Getting more bang for your buck might be attractive, but ask for the data to back up the claims."

The take-home message, says pierce Paul, an Extension plant pathologist—Apply the product for the use for which it was originally developed.

Fertility specialists Robert Mullen and Ed Lentz offered a few simple tips in a recent news release to use when evaluating a claim:

• Follow the old adage—"If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

If something is promising tremendous yield improvements by supplying adequate nutrition, suppressing weeds, improving soil health with a small application rate, it is most likely not going to deliver the desired benefits.

• Take a lesson from the first law of thermodynamics—energy can neither be created nor destroyed—it simply changes form.

"In this case, nutrients can neither be created nor destroyed, they can only be shuttled between different pools," Mullen says. "So if a product states that application of this material is equal to 50 pounds of phosphorus per acre, and the material fertilizer analysis has 20 percent phosphorus and the application rate is not 250 pounds per acre, you are not supplying the same amount of nutrients at a rate of 50 pounds per acre."

• Look for unbiased research results. "Just because a product works at some remote location does not necessarily mean it will work on your farm," Mullsen says. "If the individual selling you the product is also the individual conducting the research, be wary."

• Before using an alternative product on a large number of acres, evaluate it on a limited basis and make simple comparisons with current practices. If you see no yield advantages, you have your answer.

University-based research on nontraditional agricultural products is available in the "Compendium of Research Reports on Use of Non-Traditional Materials for Crop Production."