The yield monitor is a valuable tool in a farmer’s effort to increase profitability. A new Iowa Soybean Association research project seeks to match information provided through yield monitors to determine profitability zones.
The project includes collaboration with a commercial firm along with ISA’s analytics team. ISU researchers can create spatial maps of profitability calculated from yield monitor data. The project includes a comparison of whole farm profitability for variable-rate and fixed-rate fertilizer applications to learn which is more profitable.
Using this information farmers can determine which areas of a field are the most and least profitable. Then they can determine how to best focus their inputs and dollars toward areas of the field that are most profitable.
Annual monitor maintenance
“Data provided through the yield monitor can be useful to farmers. But like any tool, it requires some yearly maintenance for best results,” says Scott Nelson, director of ISA’s On-Farm Network. “Calibrating a yield monitor takes time and can be tedious but is essential. It’s recommended yield monitors be calibrated using a minimum of five grain flow rates.”
This should include low and very high yields to ensure the tool can measure field variation accurately, Nelson says. Without careful calibration, yield monitors will not measure ultra-low and ultra-high yields in crop fields. A carefully calibrated yield monitor is expected to be within 2% to 3% of a weighed value.
Data collected from yield monitors can be used several ways. You can realize savings and possible yield increases through variable-rate fertilizer or manure application based on nutrient removal by the crop. Yield monitor data calculations drive these variable-rate prescriptions.
Putt yield data to work
Another way to use yield monitor data is to create profitability zones across farm fields, Nelson says. This is achieved by analysis of yield monitor data to reflect profit. Using a spatial map of areas in the field that are most and least profitable enables a farmer to make wiser input decisions. In some cases, farmers dramatically reduce inputs on subfield areas that aren’t profitable, realizing a savings in input costs.
“Technology is developing rapidly to simplify and deliver new tools farmers can use with their yield history. Farmers who do not use their yield history could be missing out on significant opportunities if yield data collection isn’t accurate,” Nelson says.
GPS-based yield data has proven to be extremely valuable to help make crop management decisions. However, improperly calibrated yield monitors generate difficult to interpret or useless data — garbage in equals garbage out.
Economic risk in today’s agriculture has increased dramatically, he notes. Considering the amount of financial uncertainty involved in each decision farmers make, taking the time and patience to properly calibrate a yield monitor is essential if the yield data will be used to make future economic decisions for your farming operation.
To participate in the ISA project, email the ISA research team at firstname.lastname@example.org.