Data gathered from a combine yield monitor can improve yields and production efficiency. However, many growers are not taking full advantage of this technology.
Clive Blacker, a Precision Farming expert, suggests that many growers have been guilty of undervaluing the information that yield mapping can provide. In this article, we explain why yield mapping is important and give two top tips for making the most of it.
Verify what you’ve done and improve what you do
Data from yield mapping allows growers and their agronomists to visualise and question variability in their crop, find answers and address them if possible.
Soils are often the first port of call and Mr Blacker says yield maps alone can enable the targeting of soil analysis, both where the crop is performing and under-performing.
“You can find out if it’s a chemical or physical property that effecting yield, such as phosphate or potash levels in the soil. If you have a balanced system where those indices are where they need to be, the only thing that can affect those nutrients is crop offtake.”
Subsequently, the yield mapping can give an indication of how much you have taken off a field and how much you will need to put back on in the form of fertiliser to maintain balanced nutrients and also keep a grip of costs of production.
“If you are not accounting for variation in offtake, then you are enhancing variability, with higher biomass crops removing more nutrients from the soil,” explains Mr Blacker, “I’m also a big fan of yield mapping from a benchmarking perspective, as it gives you a position of where you have started from and the results of any changes you make to crop management.”
Pay attention to the set-up
“One of the common mistakes that happens on farm is not setting the combine up correctly. Growers or operators need to ensure everything is calibrated, including the GPS guidance is working as it should with the correct offset ad header width so the machine is recording a consistent pass.”
Autosteer is a big factor in insuring consistency, along with the right driver behaviour to minimise erroneous data which can arise from erratic operation, particularly when it comes to speed. “Blockages, slowing down to quickly or speeding up too quickly can all skew data and should be avoided,” says Mr Blacker.
Use a professional
Precision Decisions and other precision farming companies will offer training and support in these areas and Mr Blacker and his team also visit farms during the winter to inspect equipment.
He points out that once harvest is finished, focus soon switches to drilling the next crop and often this means that the combine is parked back in the shed without the right attention.
“Winter checks are important to make sure that all sensors and other equipment for the yield mapping is clean and in good working order so next season gets off on the right foot,” says Mr Blacker.
Providers of software solutions can also offer additional services to help farmers understand their data. For example, Farmplan – who supply Gatekeeper to several thousand UK farms – provide a Harvest data management service which includes: analysing historic data, preparation (including field boundaries and A-B lines) and importing, analysing and reporting on yield maps.