Yield Monitor Tips, New Technologies

Ag Leader - incab
Getting a handle on how to prep and operate yield monitors still poses a problem for many current and would-be users.

In the Technology In Ag study released in 2012, yield monitors had the second highest adoption rate among precision ag tools, second only to GPS guidance systems. This high adoption rate, largely driven by today’s OEM machines equipped from the factory with yield monitors, confirms the importance of monitors to many growers. “They realize that it is near impossible to know if agronomic performance is improving if there is no year-to-year benchmark comparison,” says Sam Worley, product marketing specialist with yield monitor pioneer Ag Leader.

But getting a handle on prepping and operating the monitors still poses problems for many current and would-be users. How do growers set up systems effectively, generating real information?

Data Gathering Steps

Capturing good data is a process. Steve Cubbage, president and owner of precision ag firm Record Harvest, suggests the first step: Plan and prepare before going to the field, before planting. Iron dealers, retailers or independent consultants — or a combination of all three — can help with this. They can start with a very basic “kitchen table” discussion about what good data looks like.

A key part of that planning process is naming farms and fields consistently, in a way that will be used exactly the same in every precision display on a farm. “No more random naming of fields ‘A,’ ‘B,’ ‘C’ or ‘1,’ 2,’ ‘3.’ No more randomly naming seed varieties with generic names like ‘corn’ or ‘soybeans,’” emphasizes Cubbage.

He says one of most important things his team does is something called “Precision Prep” or “Monitor Prep.”

“Before the season even starts we program every display on the farm with a standardized template that includes proper names of farms and fields, GIS field boundaries and a personalized picklist of seed varieties to choose from,” he describes. “That way at the end of the season everyone is on the same page instead of having to go back and sort everyone’s dirty laundry when it comes to data. It is better to start out right then to try and make it right after the train wreck.”

After pre-season work comes calibration, a task that’s not exactly simple, admits Cubbage. “It takes focus, dedication, commitment and time to calibrate yield monitor systems.”

But “getting a proper calibration is still the most important thing in capturing yield data,” says Ag Leader’s Worley.

To properly calibrate, Ag Leader recommends running four to six calibration loads to get multiple data points and an accurate read of highs and lows, to produce the most accurate results across all flow rates. Following this calibration procedure ensures the yield monitor will provide a year’s worth of accurate, quality data to act on. “Why skimp on a few calibration loads in the fall only to base your whole year’s report card on marginal data?” Worley suggests.

He notes that with four to six weight calibrations, Ag Leader’s yield monitor can be dialed in to be within 2% accuracy across all loads, and many users have reported even better results.

Cubbage says companies are working to make the calibration process simpler. For instance, Precision Planting says its new entry into the yield monitor market only needs one calibration per crop vs. the four or five required of current systems.

But he does admit, “I’m not sure that if a guy who won’t do three or four calibrations will even do one.” Cubbage has found that yield monitors (field-installed or OEM out of the factory) on combines that are covering most of the country’s acres “are horribly underutilized and the need for calibration is not taken seriously.”

Accuracy is the most important aspect of yield data so growers need to consider the variables that go into capturing it, says Brian Sorbe, director of sales, Americas at Topcon Precision Ag. The type of sensors a manufacturer employs, sampling frequency, integrity of the calibration, grain test weight, machine roll compensation and sensor maintenance are only a few of many factors that affect overall accuracy of the data and yield monitor outputs.

Data Captured Where?

Cubbage says growers should make sure to save their original or raw data after downloading it. “Do not give your data away first,” says Cubbage. “Always keep your original data either in your own computer or cloud account.”

Ag Leader’s AgFiniti cloud-based data management platform has improved data capture and made it more accessible, says Worley. With AgFiniti, yield data collected in the cab can easily be stored in the cloud, ensuring it won’t be lost and making it accessible when and where users need it.

John Deere’s JDLink technology is another example of cloud storage of yield data.

Cubbage believes going wireless is the latest, greatest improvement to yield monitors to come along in years. Why? “Because even though yield monitors have been around since the 1990s, the reality is that most yield data never made it back to the office. Most yield data suffered the same fate as do socks in your dryer. It just disappears.

“Wireless data transfer will grow the amount of actionable yield data exponentially over the next few years. It is a big deal,” he says.

Currently, growers are using this valuable data for analysis to improve year-to-year agronomics and take their yield maps to the field on their tablet during crop scouting. Or they overlay yield over planting maps to look for trends, notes Worley. Other growers appreciate the on-the-go yield indication right from the display in the cab, allowing the ability to make quick decisions for the upcoming season such as which variety to early order or anhydrous rates for fall application.

There’s a “potential disrupter” now arriving on the market that’s the result of what is created when a device combines ISOBUS reading technology with wireless technology, Cubbage adds. The two companies currently “attacking” this space are Farmobile and 640 Labs, which was purchased last December by Monsanto.

Both Farmobile and 640 utilize technology that generically plugs into the onboard nerve center of farm vehicles and can capture all sensor information — including yield data — and transmit it wirelessly back to a grower’s account in the cloud and even show it real-time on his mobile device.

“If this can be done successfully it could have traditional precision hardware manufacturers shaking in their boots. Who would I need a $4,500 yield monitor display?” Cubbage points out. “Instead I can use a $300 Android tablet.”

This technology certainly will make capturing data almost seamless, so finally it will be easier and cheaper and more and more growers will start using yield monitors, he believes.

Education Neglected

“Operating a yield monitor should not be that hard; however, it is perceived as hard by many people who are afraid to really understand it, or they just view it as in-field entertainment with no real long-term value,” says Cubbage.

The precision industry has done a poor job of educating/training producers in how to operate and program precision displays to capture useful data, he believes. The proof? “Look at the issues Monsanto had when the company first rolled out its FieldScripts program,” he says. “To participate in the program, a grower had to provide three ‘good years’ of yield data to his Monsanto seed representative. Given the fact that yield monitors had been around for 20 years, and they would be dealing with some of the most progressive and elite growers, Monsanto assumed growers easily had such data archived.

“But even the best growers had a hard time stringing together three good years of data,” Cubbage points out.

“The simple and honest fact is that most iron dealers really don’t have a vested interest in whether your yield monitor collects good data or not. As long as that combine picks corn, their primary job is done. Knowing how to change varieties or calibrate — well, that’s something you can figure out on your own,” he says. “The precision hardware industry has done a terrible job in educating and training producers in how to operate and program their precision displays in order to capture good data.”

More Advances

This year saw the entry of a new player into the yield monitor market, Topcon Precision Ag. The company introduced its YieldTrakk family of solutions, which Sorbe says has “some noteworthy improvements” to the technology that will give OEM yield monitors and aftermarket competition a run for their money. He credits the team at RDS (Topcon purchased Digi-Star/RDS this year), which has 15 years experience in yield monitors — and which he notes has created some of the “bedrock” technology used in most modern units.

YieldTrakk is designed to provide operators with real-time data collection that includes monitoring and mapping of yield and moisture and cut rate, as well as the total weight of crop during a harvest. Coupled with cloud-based data transfer systems, yield data can be automatically transferred from the combine back to the office.


Leave a Reply

Data Management Stories
Data ManagementRemote Soil-Sensed Management Zones Help Increase Crop Input Efficiency
June 18, 2018
Accurate prescription maps are essential for effective variable rate technology (VRT) fertilizer application. Grid soil sampling is frequently used to Read More
Data ManagementChecking the Box: FBN Garners Ag Data Transparent Certification
May 30, 2018
Farmers Business Network (FBN) recently completed Ag Data Transparent (ADT) third-party certification, affirming that the FBN network’s data and analytics Read More
Data ManagementHow AI, Data and Voice Analysis May Transform Farming — And Grow a New Industry in the South
May 22, 2018
In 2015, an estimated $800 million worth of crops in Georgia — a number that amounted to about 13.8% of Read More
Data ManagementWhen It Comes to Farm Data, How Good Is ‘Good Enough’?
May 21, 2018
Ron Farrell, a frequent sounding board for my wacky ideas and a source of ongoing encouragement to stay the course Read More
Trending Articles
Sensors/IoTJohn Deere, Pessl Instruments Team Up to Create Opportunities
June 18, 2018
John Deere is best known for its line of tractors, combines, sprayers, and implements. However, in an effort to help Read More
Decision Support SoftwareSST’s Matt Waits: Innovative Data Solutions Key to Transforming Global Agriculture
May 31, 2018
Proagrica, part of RELX Group, earlier this year acquired U.S.-based precision agriculture solutions company, SST Software, in a move set Read More
InfoAg ConferenceThe InfoAg Conference Offers Early Bird Registration Discount
May 24, 2018
Since 1995, The InfoAg Conference has been the premier event for discussion and advancement of precision agriculture. The event, organized Read More
EventsEFC Systems Sponsorship Demonstrates Commitment to Continuing Education for Retail Dealerships
May 16, 2018
Enterprise software manufacturer EFC Systems, scholarship sponsor of the inaugural PrecisionAg® Professional Accelerator professional development conference this June in Brookings, Read More
EventsMeister Media Debuts Growing Innovations
May 10, 2018
As a service provider, you and your grower customers probably can agree on this much: While innovation abounds in agriculture, Read More
EventsForum Calling All Innovators of Agriculture Technology
May 2, 2018
The challenges that come with feeding the world continue to grow. Luckily, so do advances in information technology that are Read More
Latest News
Imagery/SensingIntelinAir, TerrAvion Partner on Ultra High Resolution …
June 21, 2018
IntelinAir has partnered with TerrAvion to deliver what it is calling a “best in class imagery solution” to joint customers Read More
Industry NewsRaven Launching CR12 Field Computer in Europe this Week
June 19, 2018
Raven Industries announced the release of a new, larger field computer: the CR12. Utilizing the same functionality as the CR7 Read More
DronesNew York Apple Orchard Claims World First in Pollinatio…
June 18, 2018
Beak & Skiff Apple Orchard in LaFayette, NY, is the first orchard in the world to use drones to pollinate Read More
Farmer with iPad
Decision Support SoftwareAgrian Enhances Field Scouting App
June 18, 2018
Agrian has added a new feature to its robust field scouting app – a pest trap counting solution. The new Read More
AmericasMFA Precision Head Talks Precision Ag, Cover Crops at 2…
June 18, 2018
Although implicit to anyone that spends a good chunk of their career in agriculture, the link between advanced precision technology Read More
Iron Man
UncategorizedAgFunder News: Forget Self-Driving Tractors; Agricultur…
June 18, 2018
Marvel’s Iron Man suit might seem an unlikely source of inspiration for growers, writes Joseph Byrum on AgFunderNews.com. Once the Read More
Data ManagementRemote Soil-Sensed Management Zones Help Increase Crop …
June 18, 2018
Accurate prescription maps are essential for effective variable rate technology (VRT) fertilizer application. Grid soil sampling is frequently used to Read More
Sensors/IoTJohn Deere, Pessl Instruments Team Up to Create Opportu…
June 18, 2018
John Deere is best known for its line of tractors, combines, sprayers, and implements. However, in an effort to help Read More
Business Management3 Questions to Ask When Looking for Your First Job in P…
June 18, 2018
Let me begin this column by extending my congratulations to all of my fellow students who have just graduated – Read More
Robotics/Labor SaversStine Seed Plunks Down $5 Million on Smart Ag’s D…
June 14, 2018
Stine Seed Farm has invested $5 million in Smart Ag Inc., an Iowa technology firm that has developed a full Read More
AmericasIndigo Touts ‘New Approach to Agricultural R&…
June 13, 2018
Indigo, the Boston-based microbial crop technology startup that has raised more than $400 million, announced it is expanding its research Read More
Ag Drone
EventsAgTech Conference of the South Dedicated to Innovation,…
June 12, 2018
Join current and emerging agtech business leaders and investors at the AgTech Conference of the South, a premiere conference dedicated Read More
Munckhof Machinefabriek equipment
EuropeEurope: Precision Farming at Heart of Munckhof Deal
June 11, 2018
One of Europe’s oldest suppliers of machinery used in fruit production, the Dutch firm Munckhof Machinefabriek, has been purchased by Read More
Australia/New ZealandCrunching the Ag-Tech Numbers Saves Time for Australian…
June 5, 2018
Time management is key on the Walker family’s farm, where a mix between cropping, commercial sheep and two studs means Read More
AmericasDroneShow Highlights UAV Technology in Latin America
June 4, 2018
Editor’s note: The DroneShow Latin America is an annual trade fair hosted by MundoGEO, a media and communications company founded Read More
Imagery/SensingImagery in Agriculture: Time for a Reality Check
June 4, 2018
Where do I begin….I’ve been dealing with imagery in agriculture since I was 10 when my dad started Satshot. At Read More
AmericasNAAA Issues Drone Pilot Reminder: Watch Out For Aerial …
May 31, 2018
With more than 1 million UAVs registered with the FAA, it is vitally important for UAV operators to be aware Read More
Decision Support SoftwareSST’s Matt Waits: Innovative Data Solutions Key t…
May 31, 2018
Proagrica, part of RELX Group, earlier this year acquired U.S.-based precision agriculture solutions company, SST Software, in a move set Read More