Getting the most out of harvest with yield data

“Every farmer wants to get the best returns for their efforts every year,” says Ben Hatton, Gatekeeper Key Account Manager. “Naturally, some things are out of your control, no better demonstrated than the volatility we have seen over this growing season. However, there are key agronomic and management decisions that, using the right information, can make a huge difference to a farm’s profitability and indeed its sustainability”.

Now is the time for growers to consider how best to prepare for life after harvest. Key to that is making informed decisions – through understanding and analysing farm data, choices can be made that work for you and your farm.

With that goal in mind, more and more growers are turning to Farmplan’s farm management software to turn their yield data into truly valuable and effective farm actions.

Why yield data matters

Yield data is plentiful; the technology is now commonplace in the arable sector, with yield mapping gaining a similar level of acceptance too. However, in many cases we still see a large gap between how much data is collected and how much value is ultimately extracted from that data.

So, why should growers invest their time and resources into getting the most from their yield maps? Because organised and accurate yield maps provide a benchmark and a reference for financial values and measurements.

This, in turn, allows a farm business to have a greater sense of where they are financially and drill down into those parts of the farm that are performing well and those performing less well. Gross margin reporting provides visibility across the field and farm based entirely on the user’s own records.

Leveraging data from yield mapping comparisons doesn’t just help you understand where you are but where you’re heading. It provides a reference for further crop inputs, allowing growers to use their map records this year and in the coming seasons to fine-tune their approach and make more informed decisions.

Yield maps can offer insight into what’s happening, and more growers are realising the benefits of this valuable information when combined with agronomic and local knowledge to aid decision making. At the end of the season, they are the ‘benchmark’ of performance.

It’s true, yield data can be a key influencer in management decisions. The longer a period you collect your data over, the more you will have to support your decisions.

Ben Hatton, Gatekeeper Key Account Manager, Farmplan

Analysis of the data you collect helps you make more of this information and Gatekeeper is one tool that can help make sense of what you are seeing. It must be seen as part of a bigger picture though – it is about using data in conjunction with historical, local and agronomic knowledge to achieve your objectives.

Collecting yield data is a good start, but it’s what a grower does with that data that matters. By making full use of smart analysis tools, growers can adopt a variable input system based on yield maps and other data. This could be to optimise inputs, reduce machine use and of course drive environmental benefits to the soil, wildlife and the wider environment.

Carbon auditing on your farm – where do you begin?

Agriculture in the UK is undergoing a dramatic sea change in a drive to become more sustainable and help combat climate change, as demonstrated by the NFU’s aspiration of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2040 – a decade before the national target.

Farming businesses are now expected to not only reduce their carbon footprint but provide evidence of doing so – a pressure that comes from regulatory bodies and supply chain partners.

Can farmers take positive steps towards carbon neutrality and, in doing so, actually improve efficiency and profitability in their business? According to James Royce, Rural Consultant at Carbon Metrics, it’s certainly possible. It just requires a change in perspective.

Farming your data

“Farmers don’t just manage their crops or livestock,” says James. “They also farm data. As basic payments are decreased, it pays to be savvier in how you use that data. A carbon audit will help you identify those areas on your farm that are less efficient and where growth is possible.”

As James explains, the first step is to enter a farm’s data – which the farmer will likely already possess, especially if they use a digital farm management tool – into a carbon calculator and produce a report. The farmer is then presented with a report containing their farm business carbon footprint and viable mitigation measures. These suggested changes are rarely radical; the focus is finding ways to make marginal gains and improve efficiencies across the farm.

“Even a 1% gain makes a difference,” says James. “Those small gains add up across your farm and help cut emissions massively.”

More and more farmers are embracing the benefits that digital farm management tools can bring. Users of Gatekeeper, the UK’s most popular cropping software from Farmplan, allows users to immediately leverage their stored data with Carbon Metrics for example, instantly retrieving figures for crop areas, yields, fertiliser and pesticide usage.

“Using a tool like Gatekeeper means having all your data at hand,” says Scott Millar, Enterprise Account Manager at Farmplan. “However, data is only valuable when it’s being utilised. Making your data accessible lets you leverage it in a way that benefits your business, both in the short-term and for the years ahead.”

The benefits of carbon auditing

While reducing your carbon footprint might seem like an arduous (if necessary) ordeal, it presents a chance to determine where on the farm is inefficient, and where gains can be made.

“Where we find excessive carbon emissions tends to be in the poorest performing parts of the farm,” says James. “A carbon audit helps you identify those areas and allow you to come up with mitigation measures and increase efficiency. For example, if a beef enterprise has disproportionate methane emissions, they could reconsider the animals’ diet and possibly decrease feed consumption. That would not only result in quicker finishing times but also achieve cost savings through a reduction in overfeeding”.

“Consider carbon auditing as an opportunity, a step forward. If you’re already thinking about carbon now, you’re probably ahead of the curve of much of the supply chain.”

Whether your carbon audit reveals minimal or multiple efficiency issues, your farm can benefit – not just immediately, but using that data as a foundation going forward.

“Carbon auditing provides greater understanding of your farm,” adds Scott. “Smart digital solutions can help us all be more efficient in a way that improves compliance and, ultimately, profitability. We’re all on the journey towards net zero but you don’t have to do it alone. Remember the saying: if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

Find out more about how Carbon Metrics can help you on your carbon journey.