Yield Data: More Than a Pretty Picture

It is mid-July, which, for the Australian cotton industry, means that picking is still going on for some growers. A different group of growers, however, is getting ready to start planting cotton again in three weeks time, and the introduction of Bollgard III has brought these two events awfully close together! Most growers only have two priorities in-between two cotton seasons: finding time for a well-deserved holiday and working out a plan for the next crop. So what historical information do you base your crop management decisions on?

Quite often, crop management decisions end up getting dictated, at least partially, by old habits and environmental conditions, but, more and more, data gathered from previous seasons gets analyzed and used as well. As more and more data becomes available from different sources, it is important to distinguish between the types of data that can be used to support a certain decision-making process. In this article, I will focus on yield data and the role it can play in planning your next crop.

Up until recently, yield data was quite often only used to either confirm an existing belief or show what a grower already knew himself. This type of yield data service, also known as a “pretty picture service,” is getting less and less accepted in the marketplace as growers are starting to look at the ROI of their precision ag investments. It is common knowledge that farmers around the world want to reasonably be able to expect at least a $5 return for every $1 they invest; why should precision agriculture be any different?

In the case of yield data analysis there are a certain number of basic services that get performed on raw data: data gets calibrated, clipped to field boundaries, cleaned up, and polygons get smoothed out in order to get a yield map which can be used for further analysis. From there on, it depends on your provider as to how much you actually do with your yield data and what your ROI for this process will be. Similar to NDVI imagery, you can look at yield data in two different ways: you either analyze the in-field variability, which are the differences in yield within a field in the same season, or analyze the trends that develop over time, which are the yield differences in the same field over a number of seasons.

Once the initial analysis has been performed, variability can be analyzed in combination with any number of other data sources: NDVI Imagery, EM survey data, soil nutrient analyses, etc. This has to be a process, where the grower, consultant, and technology service provider work together closely in order to get to a good end result. By analyzing the data, looking at the crop management strategy, and combining that with some in-field ground-truthing, the reasons behind variability can be found.

Once the reasons behind variability in yield have been uncovered, a plan to increase the total field profitability can be formulated. For example, when trying to lift the average yield it is commonplace to aim for improving some of the lower performing zones within a paddock in order to lift the average yield. In some cases, you will find that lower performing zones are very hard to improve as there are certain constraints such as soil type, soil depth, etc. In this case, the plan might be to start applying nutrients at a variable rate, where the zones with soil constraints are getting a lower amount, only getting enough nutrients for the yield potential they have, and to put more nutrients in those zones where the performance is already relatively high. The reasoning in this scenario is that the good yielding parts of the field can still perform better, whilst the lower yielding zones are already performing as well as they can. Although counter-intuitive for most growers, it has proven to be an effective strategy in some cases; it definitely proves that you need data to make these kinds of decisions… if you don’t measure, you don’t know!

Whilst growing the next crop, there will of course be environmental and other factors during the season that will play a role that cannot be predicted ahead of time. But with good data and an even better analysis, you can at least be prepared to face challenges with as much knowledge as possible. All sorts of crop management decisions can be influenced by data from previous seasons, such as variable rate nutrition, irrigation scheduling, and growth management to just name a few. With the right people, knowledge, and tools, you can make agricultural data help you in your decision-making process.

It is important to record and store as much farm data as possible, but not every grower has the capability to record every kind of data. For example, in the Australian cotton industry there are still a significant number of basket pickers in operation that do not have the capability to record yield data. Whatever your recording capability might be, every bit of data is worth saving, and just because you can’t record everything on your farm yet, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start building a (limited) database today.

For more information, feel free to contact me on [email protected].

Leave a Reply

Data Management Stories
Data ManagementWinField United Details Upgraded ‘Insights’ Capabilities
November 21, 2017
WinField United has made several strategic investments to strengthen its total agronomy solution for retail and farmer customers, according to Read More
Field
Data ManagementThe Climate Corp., Deveron Form Drone Analytics Partnership
November 16, 2017
The Climate Corp., a subsidiary of Monsanto Co., has announced a partnership with Deveron UAS Corp., that will deliver farmers Read More
Soybean-Field-Photo-Barbara-Eckstein
Data ManagementWeather Forecasting: How Does It Work, and How Reliable Is It?
November 14, 2017
Do you ever wonder exactly how the weather forecast is made? And how good are they, really? In last month’s Read More
Data ManagementAgGateway Grain Transfer Proof of Concept Shows Promise
November 10, 2017
We talk about closed-loop systems quite a bit in modern production agriculture. Having a closed-loop, or completely self-contained, system is Read More
Trending Articles
Used Combine
Service ProvidersFinding New Precision Ag Opportunities in Older Equipment
November 15, 2017
Whether to buy new or used equipment has been and continues to be an important topic for growers. When it Read More
Blue River Tech See and Spray prototype in CA
Business ManagementIs the Agtech Startup Boom Over?
November 13, 2017
In the past few months there has been a flurry of acquisitions of agtech startups by major players in the Read More
Spray Drift
Business ManagementProtecting Your Business with Ag Data: What Dicamba Can Teach Us (Guest Column)
November 9, 2017
All over the country, in ag communities large and small, farmers are reporting crop damage, neighbors are fighting, lawsuits and Read More
Kokoda-Trek2
Australia/New ZealandPrecision Agriculture in Papua New Guinea
November 2, 2017
I recently spent two weeks in the Central Highlands area of Papua New Guinea (PNG) on the Kokoda Track. The Read More
Robotic-Field-Scanner
Specialty CropsOpinion: Agriculture’s Big Data is Coming to You
October 20, 2017
If you think your world is changing at a dizzying pace, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. That’s my takeaway from Read More
Brazil-Soybean-field
AmericasIPNI Brazil: Precision Agriculture to Improve Nutrient Use Efficiency
October 16, 2017
As I mentioned in my last article, the IPNI Brazil Symposium on Precision Agriculture was held in early October in Read More
Latest News
EuropeAgritechnica 2017: 5 Quick Takeaways from World’s Top F…
November 21, 2017
Agritechnica 2017 wrapped up this past weekend, and now with the show in the books and a few days to Read More
FOTO-CAPA
AmericasAgricultural Drones in Brazil: A Look at Training and P…
November 21, 2017
Technology adoption usually occurs in stages. In agriculture, it progresses best when new innovations are spurred by competition, and the Read More
Data ManagementWinField United Details Upgraded ‘Insights’…
November 21, 2017
WinField United has made several strategic investments to strengthen its total agronomy solution for retail and farmer customers, according to Read More
Service ProvidersSciFi in Ag: Smart Pills for Cows (and other livestock)
November 21, 2017
On November 13th of this year, the FDA approved the first digital pill for human-use with a digital ingestible sensor. Read More
bayer-bosch-weed-detection
Tools & Smart EquipmentState-of-the-Art Weed Detection Technology Could be Ava…
November 20, 2017
As part of a three-year research partnership between two German agricultural and tech giants, Bayer and Bosch are developing smart Read More
DronesDrones Play Critical Role in Ohio Agricultural Research
November 17, 2017
The Springfield Beckley-Municipal Airport now has a new hangar for unmanned aircraft and precision agriculture, writes Allyson Brown on GovTech.com. Read More
Iowa-Farmer China
AsiaIowa Farm a Model for Modernizing China Agriculture
November 16, 2017
The buddy seat on Rick Kimberley’s combine-harvester is a fine vantage point from which to observe precision farming. The combine’s Read More
Field
Data ManagementThe Climate Corp., Deveron Form Drone Analytics Partner…
November 16, 2017
The Climate Corp., a subsidiary of Monsanto Co., has announced a partnership with Deveron UAS Corp., that will deliver farmers Read More
aggateway
Service ProvidersAgGateway Recognizes Leaders at 2017 Annual Conference
November 16, 2017
At its annual conference last week, AgGateway honored individuals and companies that are advancing electronic connectivity efforts in agriculture and Read More
corn field
UncategorizedTopcon Agriculture Prepares to Release Horizon 4.02
November 15, 2017
Topcon Agriculture has announced the addition of new functions including Auto Turn and Steer to Boundary applications in its upcoming Read More
Used Combine
Service ProvidersFinding New Precision Ag Opportunities in Older Equipme…
November 15, 2017
Whether to buy new or used equipment has been and continues to be an important topic for growers. When it Read More
John-Deere-Air-Carts
Systems ManagementJohn Deere 1910 Air Carts Can Now Be Retrofitted with S…
November 14, 2017
Intelligent Agricultural Solutions, LLC (Intelligent Ag), a leader in electronics innovations for modern farming, has released Engage Zone Control, the Read More
Climate FieldView Script Creator
EuropeThe Climate Corp. Expands Global Digital Agriculture Pl…
November 14, 2017
The Climate Corp., a subsidiary of Monsanto Co., has announced at Agritechnica, the world’s leading trade fair for agricultural machinery, Read More
Soybean-Field-Photo-Barbara-Eckstein
Data ManagementWeather Forecasting: How Does It Work, and How Reliable…
November 14, 2017
Do you ever wonder exactly how the weather forecast is made? And how good are they, really? In last month’s Read More
Topcon_TAP
Decision Support SoftwareTopcon Agriculture Introduces New Connected Agricultura…
November 13, 2017
Topcon Agriculture has introduced TAP, the Topcon Agriculture Platform, a cloud-based agricultural ecosystem designed to provide real-time monitoring and data Read More
Topcon A6
Systems ManagementTopcon Agriculture Adds ISOBUS Communication to Opus Co…
November 13, 2017
Topcon Agriculture has added industry-leading ISOBUS universal terminal and task controller functionality to the Opus A6 and A8 consoles. The Read More
Blue River Tech See and Spray prototype in CA
Business ManagementIs the Agtech Startup Boom Over?
November 13, 2017
In the past few months there has been a flurry of acquisitions of agtech startups by major players in the Read More
Data ManagementAgGateway Grain Transfer Proof of Concept Shows Promise
November 10, 2017
We talk about closed-loop systems quite a bit in modern production agriculture. Having a closed-loop, or completely self-contained, system is Read More