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Pioneer-yield-app.jpg Willie Vogt
DIGITAL KERNEL COUNT: The new Pioneer Corn Yield Estimator uses your smart phone’s camera to take a photo and count kernels (as noted by red dots). The information is then combined with stand count and kernels per bushel (right image) to do an estimate of yield.

Turning a smart phone into a yield estimator

New app from Pioneer helps take the guess work out of measuring field productivity

During a media field event, the agenda was circumspect. Jeremy Groeteke, U.S. digital ag lead, Corteva Agriscience was to discuss something “to be announced.” Always a flag of something new. And in this case the company wasn’t kidding.

After significant development Corteva and Pioneer are rolling out a Corn Yield Estimator that uses machine learning, artificial intelligence and a little input from the user to fine-tune in-field corn crop measurement. The days of counting kernels, and rows, by hand may be ending.

“Farmers are doing business on these,” Groeteke says, holding up a smart phone. The new Corn Yield Estimator is part of a comprehensive strategy to revamp the Pioneer web experience for customers including the new app and a redesigned website.

The new app takes a picture of the ear and instantly counts kernels on the ear. The yield estimator takes that count, the stand count and kernels per bushel to estimate yield for a field. Using a smart phone to do the kernel count means that a user can enter a field, strip down a representative sample of ears, do the counts, include stand count and an estimate of kernels per bushel and more quickly estimate field performance.

“You can select field areas to take the measurements for improved accuracy too,” Groeteke says. Pioneer has long had tools for capturing field information with aerial images. A user, which can be a farmer, agronomist or researcher, can then target field areas to measure to better estimate yield.

For example, Groeteke explains that sampling a high-producing area, but including ears from a lower producing area could skew the results. Targeting the yield check, which can be done with GPS reference in the field, will fine-tune results. “You can strip the ear on the stalk and take the picture to measure kernels,” he explains. “Each image you take can be used to calculate yield for a specific field area.”

Timing and yield measurement

That combination of aerial imagery for targeting count areas, and the ability to geo-reference your recording is a benefit. “It’s one-plus-one equals two,” Groeteke says. “It’s one-plus-one equals three.”

He explains that the aim of this app is to help farmers standardize the process for estimating yield from a single ear and is part of the company’s larger predictive agriculture effort.

The tool can take the photo and do the kernel count even early on. The challenge is knowing about tip back or kernel fill and how that may impact final yield. But the Yield Estimator has a high level of confidence at Pioneer. “Our researchers are using it in plots and our agronomists will be using it,” he says.

The product was developed using visual machine learning, which means taking a lot of photos and “teaching” the system how to do the count. The image, though straight on, uses math to calculate the full ear from that photo. It’s a handy tool for getting an idea of how a field is performing.

groeteke-pioneer.jpg
SMART PHONE APPROACH: Jeremey Groeteke is U.S. digital ag lead, Corteva Agriscience. He explains the new Corn Yield Estimator tool during a recent Pioneer media field day. The smart phone tool will simplify in-field yield estimates for farmers and consultants.

The tool does not rely on having web access to work, which means you can do the stand count even when your smart phone may be offline. “We realize that a farmer doesn’t always have good Internet access,” Groeteke says.

He adds that the system will not measure test weight and you will need to estimate kernels per bushel. For example, the big kernels from irrigated farm country in Nebraska represent a different yield potential than for corn in dryland areas where more kernels make up that bushel. The user can estimate kernel count for a bushel as part of the exercise.

Tech at work

Machine learning is being used in many ways. The use of imagery-based systems like weed or disease identifying tools is part of that effort. This new tool takes machine learning in a different direction showing how the tech can simplify or enhance management efforts on the farm.

The Yield Estimator is part of a new initiative from Pioneer for a more connected digital ecosystem including the Pioneer Seeds mobile app and a revamped Pioneer.com. That site redesign includes a new single-login interface, mobile responsive design and a user-friendly online payment experience.

You can download the Corn Yield Estimator from your favorite app store, it’s available for iOS and Android phones, just search Pioneer Corn Yield Estimator. The product is free and can be linked to your Pioneer account. You will need to register to use the tool. And you can check out the new redesigned Pioneer website at pioneer.com.

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