As the days in the Northern Hemisphere slowly get shorter, they are getting longer in the Southern Hemisphere and everywhere growers are starting to prepare their equipment in anticipation of the upcoming harvest. In the U.S., 26% of corn has already reached the dent stage and 84% of soybeans have reached the pod setting stage. Everything is pointing to an earlier than average start in most areas.
In Australia, wheat and other winter crops are looking good in the Western and Southern areas not affected by drought, whilst large swaths of land in the East are seeing an unusual fallow period due to a severe lack of moisture. A mix of dry weather and localized flooding in other areas has had a severe effect on crop quality and yield prospects everywhere from the U.S. to Europe, Australia, and elsewhere.
Servicing your combines and tractors, making sure the trucks are ready to roll, and inspecting your on-site grain storage seems second nature to most growers, but who is thinking about the ‘digital harvest’ happening at the same time? Harvest machinery information provides an abundance of data which can be used for all sorts of analyses, but it’s hard to fix up later if it isn’t recorded accurately in the first place. So where do you start when preparing to harvest this critical layer of data? Depending on time and knowledge availability in an operation, growers can prepare their equipment themselves or get their local service provider to organize this.
Most machine dealerships offer services specifically geared towards preparing to record harvest data: they check the GPS system, upgrade firmware in the cab monitor, make sure the data storage system is ready, and perform a ton of other little checks. I often speak to growers that are hesitant to spend money on preparing their digital harvest, but once we discuss the potential benefits of having a solid layer of yield data available, it soon makes the preparation costs pale in comparison. After the equipment has been prepared for harvest, operators need to be made aware of the do’s and don’ts during harvest with respect to things like re-calibrating in the field, leaving the monitor recording between fields, and entering field and crop names correctly.
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A step that is often overlooked by growers and advisors alike however, is entering harvest data in their Farm Management Systems during harvest or post-harvest. These systems get used all year to record planting nutrition and pesticide applications, but without accurate harvest information you’re missing out on valuable agronomic and financial insights.
Layers of financial and agronomic information become more valuable and provide more insights when they can be viewed in the context of accurate harvest records. It’s what allows you to look back and gauge of the success of this season’s strategies as you plan your strategy for the season ahead.
So, whilst all bearings are being greased, chains are tensioned, and filters cleaned, I recommend growers to also service those parts of their equipment they might be tempted to ignore for another season. When harvest ‘18 is finished and you’re kicking back with a well-deserved refreshment, I recommend you grab your iPad, enter your harvest data, and sync this with your agronomist and financial advisor. We all want that well deserved break between seasons, but in reality, the minute you finish harvest you start preparing for your next harvest.