IF my summer travels for PrecisionAg.com proved anything, it’s that 2015 was a big year for yield data.
Sure, the flashier aerial imagery, as well as-applied data, have their respective spots in the lineup too, but with so many management decisions now being driven off the figures that spit out of the yield monitor every fall, yield data is pretty much the equivalent of an elite NFL quarterback in today’s game: you basically can’t win without one.
Which brings me to the subject of this feature. I recently sat in on a webinar presentation unlike anything I had heard this summer on the precision show circuit.
Part of the “Precision Ag Insight” series, hosted by well-known precision ag technology advocate Chad Godsey (owner, Godsey Precision Ag) and sponsored by software outfit and friend to PrecisionAg.com, XS, Inc., the webinar covered the importance of post-collection yield data cleaning. I heard A TON this summer about yield monitor calibration, but this was new territory for me.
In a nutshell, as the combine traverses the field the yield monitor will at times produce readings that vary either extremely high or extremely low, skewing the final average bushel stats (aka yield variability). The yield data cleaning process, which can be either automated or done manually through a free USDA ARS Yield Editor tool, removes those values from the data prior to upload into a farm management software program.
“It really is quite surprising, the number (from an XS survey) that over one-third of us don’t spend much time cleaning yield data, and the reason for that may be that we’re not actively using yield data in making management decisions yet, but still even in that situation it’s important because eventually you will use that yield data when you do start variable rate seeding or fertilizer or whatever it may be,” Godsey said.
Godsey found out just how critical yield data cleaning could be this season via three trials, two of which were on-farm. One was a look at varying management zones, another was a UAN variable rate trial and the third was a “compost versus no compost” trial – with the compost applied at about 5 tons per acre.
“From those trials, the big thing for us is looking at the yield variability in bushels-per-acre,” Godsey explained. “With the clean data we had yield variability from a high to low of 191 and with unclean data we had about 219 bushels, and the clean data from those trials showing 264 bu/ac average yield was right on with the scale tickets.
“So with cleaning that data we are getting the actual field yield from that field, and in this case using clean data makes quite a big difference in return on investment.”
Godsey has a few tips for growers preparing for the yield data collection process this fall, as well as those new to the data cleaning process.
“Initially check your data after the first few days of harvesting, and then backup everything as often as possible,” he advised. “I can’t recommend that enough, make sure you’re collecting that good clean data often.”
“And I also can’t emphasize enough to clean, clean, clean that yield data,” he continued. “When you input clean yield data into AgVeritas or whatever software you are using, you’re going to get clean, clearer and more precise results. And it helps clarify those end of year questions, that’s oftentimes what we see. When we don’t have a clear conclusion at the end of the year it’s most often due to poor data, and that’s typically due to not cleaning the data often enough.”
The free to download USDA ARS Yield Editor Tool is a great way to get started cleaning your data this fall, according to Godsey.
“I’m a big fan of the ARS Yield Editor tool,” he says. “The thing I like about it is you can have the ultimate power as far as what factors – whether it be flow delay, min/max velocity, min/max yield – things like that. And then also you can toggle back and forth to see what data points it deletes, how many points it will delete, so you really have power to clean that data. And if you don’t feel comfortable with those things yet, it has an automated option as well.”
The USDA ARST Yield Editor Tool can be downloaded here.