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
AmericasPrecision Farming Companies to Watch in 2018 (OPINION)
January 17, 2018
My friends, as many of you told me repeatedly throughout the last 12 months, 2017 was an interesting year in Read More
farmer-tractor-ipad
Data ManagementThe Era of Digital Agriculture: Opportunities and Challenges
January 17, 2018
The digital revolution is changing the way agriculture is done. Rapid population growth, changes in market demands, depleting agricultural land, Read More
Data ManagementBlockchain: Making Data Cleaner, More Secure
January 16, 2018
Probably most professionals who deal with business data have at least heard the term “blockchain” bantered about as potentially the Read More
Soybean-field-clouds-Photo-courtesy-of-Earl-R-Shumaker
Data ManagementBetting on Rain? The Accuracy and Reliability of Precipitation Forecasts
January 16, 2018
For you sports junkies out there, if I could prove to you that I can correctly predict winners and losers Read More
Trending Articles
John-Deere-Cab-GPS
Data ManagementPrecision Ag Hardware and Software: A Little Off-Season Maintenance Goes A Long Way
January 11, 2018
All service technicians have heard this line. Most often when spring makes its anticipated return to our lives. It is Read More
Anez-Consulting-Paul-Anez-and-Michael-Dunn
Service ProvidersAnez Consulting: Focus On Fertility
January 9, 2018
Central Minnesota features variability aplenty when it comes to soil characteristics and topography, from flat, black expanses rich in organic Read More
Agrishow2017
Americas5 Best Ag Tech Shows in Brazil
January 8, 2018
Brazil continues to demonstrate its potential in agriculture. Several international companies are investing in our country because we have a Read More
Farmer and computer
Service ProvidersPrecision Agriculture Writers Wanted To Join Our Team in 2018
December 10, 2017
About The Opportunity: PrecisionAg.com is looking for people to join our team in 2018 and submit original content to our Read More
Harvested-Corn-Field-Clouds
Data ManagementWeather Services Advance Precision Agriculture
December 4, 2017
Some estimates suggest over half of growers’ activities are impacted by weather conditions, from field workability to fertility management to harvest Read More
Wheat-an-oats-Daniel-X-ONeil
Data ManagementWill Open-Source Finally Unlock Ag Technology’s Potential?
November 28, 2017
To Aaron Ault’s eyes, ag technology right now is something like a walled garden — not unlike the Microsoft of Read More
Latest News
Lee_Brittany
Specialty CropsFlorida Blue Farms Digging Data for Savings and Profit
January 17, 2018
Brittany Lee is no stranger to land management, writes Frank Giles on GrowingProduce.com. She grew up around it, observing her parents Read More
AmericasPrecision Farming Companies to Watch in 2018 (OPINION)
January 17, 2018
My friends, as many of you told me repeatedly throughout the last 12 months, 2017 was an interesting year in Read More
farmer-tractor-ipad
Data ManagementThe Era of Digital Agriculture: Opportunities and Chall…
January 17, 2018
The digital revolution is changing the way agriculture is done. Rapid population growth, changes in market demands, depleting agricultural land, Read More
Data ManagementBlockchain: Making Data Cleaner, More Secure
January 16, 2018
Probably most professionals who deal with business data have at least heard the term “blockchain” bantered about as potentially the Read More
Soybean-field-clouds-Photo-courtesy-of-Earl-R-Shumaker
Data ManagementBetting on Rain? The Accuracy and Reliability of Precip…
January 16, 2018
For you sports junkies out there, if I could prove to you that I can correctly predict winners and losers Read More
center-pivot-irrigation-drop-sprinklers-on-corn
Precision IrrigationFinding Your Precision Ag Mindset
January 15, 2018
A precision mindset is the most important requirement for successful precision ag technology adoption. One of my first VRI (variable Read More
Drone-and-operator-Photo-courtesy-of-Kray-Technologies
DronesCrop Protection Application by Drone: A Q&A with Kr…
January 15, 2018
January is a busy month for agricultural companies. It’s a month that strong sales can set the mood for the Read More
Data ManagementAgGateway Grain Traceability Proof-of-Concept Seeks Ind…
January 15, 2018
AgGateway’s Precision Agriculture and Grain & Feed councils have issued a call for participation for a proof-of-concept initiative in AgGateway’s Read More
John-Deere-Cab-GPS
Data ManagementPrecision Ag Hardware and Software: A Little Off-Season…
January 11, 2018
All service technicians have heard this line. Most often when spring makes its anticipated return to our lives. It is Read More
Corn-Planter
Grower Services & SolutionsCorn Planter: The Train of Consequences
January 11, 2018
It’s always planter season in our shop but now that harvest is done the corn planter is the next piece Read More
Robotics/Labor SaversSmart Ag Announces Driverless Tractor Automation Platfo…
January 11, 2018
An Iowa technology company has unlocked the tremendous potential for automation in agriculture by developing the first cloud-based platform for Read More
Anez-Consulting-Paul-Anez-and-Michael-Dunn
Service ProvidersAnez Consulting: Focus On Fertility
January 9, 2018
Central Minnesota features variability aplenty when it comes to soil characteristics and topography, from flat, black expanses rich in organic Read More
Agrible
Grower Services & SolutionsAgrible to Launch Retailer Services in 2018
January 9, 2018
It’s a new year, which means new market challenges. Full service retailers are searching for ways to differentiate themselves and Read More
jeremy-speaking
Grower Services & SolutionsGrower and Precision Ag Services: Opportunities Lost
January 9, 2018
I often spend time with growers, talking about their operations, and the processes they go through each season to do Read More
Winters-Farming-farm-manager-Alex-Bergwerff-and-Ranch-Systems-marketing-and-business-development-manager-Hylon-Kaufmann
Precision IrrigationInside California Irrigation: Winters Farming
January 9, 2018
As many of us already know, almonds tend to get a bad rap for their water-use efficiency — or some Read More
Sentera software
DronesSentera Offering Elevation Data Mapping Via AgVault
January 9, 2018
Sentera announces the availability of elevation maps within the Sentera AgVault platform, offering agronomists, crop consultants, and growers additional field Read More
Industry NewsRaven, South Dakota State University Link Up: What You …
January 9, 2018
On Tuesday afternoon Raven and South Dakota State University (SDSU) held a press conference on the SDSU campus in Sioux Read More
Agrishow2017
Americas5 Best Ag Tech Shows in Brazil
January 8, 2018
Brazil continues to demonstrate its potential in agriculture. Several international companies are investing in our country because we have a Read More