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Tech Tuesday

Data Anomalies and Other Drought Talk

Drought is on the the minds of most this year as corn shrivels across the heart of the Corn Belt, what does that mean to your farm's data?

In farming there are the immediate problems (tractor broken down) and the longer term challenges (decision-focused events like buying seed) and this season seems to be filled with both. As heat and drought turn the corn on a lot of early planted acres into something more akin to pineapple plants with upright leaves and no ears, immediate problems may overwhelm you.

Yet there's another season ahead - there's always another season. And that's going to bring some interesting questions. As you run the combine through this year's corn crop - or the forage chopper - you'll still gather data on yield and other information. Is that data any good? Should it be part of your "average" data set or the "yield layer?"

If you're in places where a near-normal yield is still possible the logical answer is 'yes.' However, if you're hard hit by drought the raw yield data may be of little value for decision making in the future. Yet, you may still want to analyze field variability data - places where yields were higher or lower across a field - to keep determining what impacts that result.

Decision making involves a lot of factors. Top-quality hybrids do well over a variety of conditions, but season 2012 was filled with "outlier" conditions - heat, drought, early warmth, record early planting dates - all are factors that may not occur again for many years. Based on that, you may want to consider segregating yield and performance data for 2012 away from your overall farm performance information. Analyze it for its importance in the current year, but consider leaving it out of your "yield layer" average to maintain a more realistic look at your farm's performance.

In the heat of the season - pun intended - you probably could care less about data management and how you account for information in your operation. But a long-term view of the key issues involved will help guide you in how to maximize use of this drought-tinged information.

Microsoft makes an announcement

Looks like Windows 8 is on the way officially. The computer press is saying that October is the official launch date for the new operating system. When Windows 7 came out, we said here that Microsoft finally got the operating system right. I've been using it for about a year and I'm finally getting used to it.

We have seen some early reviews of Windows 8 and the interface looks even more different with "buttons" that will take you to specific areas more quickly. The interface looks more like the Windows Mobile operating system where individual blocks are live-updating on your home screen, and some items are obviously just a click away.

We'll keep checking trusted reviews about this new system and get a demo when the time gets closer. As usual with a new operating system, we don't advise a quick move until we know how it may impact your current software and records. For now consider this a for-your-information update on a computer enhancement.

Drought updates available

Speaking of the Drought of 2012, we have a website - www.DatelineDrought.com - where collecting drought information from across the country. We also feature a daily video update - revised in the afternoon - offering insight into weather, markets and drought news. The video will feature a range of guests including Max Armstrong, director of Broadcast at Farm Progress; Greg Soulje, agricultural meteorologist for This Week in Agribusiness; and Bryce Knorr, senior editor, Farm Futures. Check it out daily.

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