Getting Started With Precision

Should I Start With Yield Maps Or Soil Tests?

It depends on your area of the country. In some parts, soil testing on grids has been popular for years. In which case, it’s a natural to add GPS to that process to refine the information. In other areas, soil fertility is not the first limiting variable on yield. In these areas, farmers may decide that a yield map which identifies low-yielding areas, offers the quickest way to pinpoint ways to boost yield.

“You can map the soil, but without the yield map, you don’t know what you have,” says Bill Reinert, Precision Farming Enterprises, Davis, Calif.

And for results-oriented operators, a yield map is a very tangible tool.

“Generally the best place to start is with yield monitors because they give a report card of what the grower is currently doing,” says Richard Johnson, Northwest Precision Ag, Blackfoot, Idaho.

Whether you start with GPS soil test maps, or with a yield map, you will be taking soil samples, GPS or not. Remember that the samples are only as good as the dirt that’s collected.

“Start with a good soil sampling program, using a good, consistent technique. If the sample is taken poorly, it will result in inaccurate information,” say Brian Dirkson, Precision Farming L.C., Dows, Iowa. “It’s a shame to spend up to $15 per acre for a GPS-based soil test and variable-rate-fertilizer application and have it all based on inaccurate samples that don’t reflect reality.”

In most cases, experts agree that combining the yield monitor results with fertility maps gives an excellent cross-reference of your crop performance, So, if you can afford it, do both.

What To Buy First?

Most everybody agrees: Get a yield monitor first. The yield monitor represents a very “robust source of data” about your field as one precision agriculture guru puts it.

One suggestion from our experts is to select a yield monitor that allows you to make field observations and flag the information to a GPS location during harvest, allowing you to note weed patches, wet spots, thin stands and other trouble areas from the combine cab. Many farmers already make observations on a note pad or other device during harvest. This allows you to add a GPS location to the information so it can be plugged into your precision farming database and cross-reference the information to yield, fertility and/or soil type information later. Versatility of the GPS system is another factor to consider.

One of the hidden issues with a factory-installed yield monitor is the versatility of the GPS receiver. Some of our experts suggest that you use the GPS receiver in connection with a laptop for in-field observations throughout the year. If you can’t get the receiver off the combine, or if it doesn’t easily link to your four-wheeler, you may have a bit of a problem.

“You ought to be able to take the GPS out and put it on a four-wheeler,” says Tracy Meiners, Agrem Inc., Anchor, ILL.

What’s The Best Overall Advice?

As is often the case with major changes in your farming business, it’s smart to start with the end in mind. If you can determine the role that precision farming information will have in your operation, it makes many of the other decisions about product and serice providers mch easier. In some cases, you might be able to get by with surprisingly little new equipment.

The software that comes with your yield monitor is plenty for the first year. For 35% of the people, that’s all they will ever want. Another 15 to 25% will never own a computer and will have somebody else do maps,” says Meiners.

It’s nice to have a local resource that clearly understands your vision for the role of precision farming technology in your business. They will be a better adviser and cause you fewer headaches if you are clear right up front what you need from them. And insist on getting personalized service instead of a cookie-cutter approach.

“Look for situation-specific advice when you talk to precision agriculture suppliers,” say Stephanie Dickson, Geo-Ag Tech Ltd., Springfield, Ill.

And it’s wise not to expect too much as you start out on your precision farming journey. Remember that you are building a database of information that will identify trends and help you manage the future performance of your ground.

“Do not look at one round of soil tests as the entire answer. You will need several years worth of this data before you will start to find matching trends,” says Andy Hill, Premier Technologies Inc., Auburn, Ind.

As you embark on the process of building this database, remember that some of your decision at the beginning will lay the foundation for opportunities to come later, don’t be short-sighted.

“When you start with precision ag, don’t leave things out or take short cuts. You will regret it every time. As time goes by, you will find that the data and information will grow in value, even if there seems little use for it now, says Northwest Precision Ag’s Johnson.

When you look at your initial investment in precision farming tools, you might be wise to remember the old saying: “Never enought time to do it right, but always enough time to do it over.” In precision farming, it can be paraphrased as: Costs too much to do it right, but I won’t get a chance to do it over.”

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the February 1998 issue of PrecisionAg Illustrated.

Leave a Reply

PrecisionAg Institute Stories
WinField’s Joel Wipperfurth On Empowering Data-Driven Decisions
InfoAg ConferenceOne on One with Joel Wipperfurth, Winfield United
August 15, 2018
Winfield United's Joel Wipperfurth discusses ag technology trends and topics during last month’s InfoAg Conference. Read More
1 On 1 With Paul Schrimpf: Simplot’s Allan Fetters
PrecisionAg InstituteOne on One With Simplot’s Allan Fetters
August 8, 2018
Allan Fetters of PrecisionAg Institute partner Simplot Grower Solutions talks about techology trends and key learnings from the recent InfoAg Conference in this exclusive interview with PrecisionAg's Paul Schrimpf. Read More
PrecisionAg InstitutePrecisionAg Institute Whitepaper Library
August 1, 2018
Welcome to the PrecisionAg Institute Whitepaper library! Here you will find free whitepapers and case studies from the PrecisionAg Institute Partners Read More
Excellence AwardsPassion for Teaching: Purdue’s Bruce Erickson
August 1, 2018
PrecisionAg Award of Excellence recipient Bruce Erickson is driven to share his knowledge of precision technologies and techniques with students, as well as the larger agriculture community. Read More
Trending Articles
Data ManagementAre You Using Your Soil to Its Full Potential?
September 14, 2018
Harvest is progressing across most parts of the U.S. and those growers who aren’t already harvesting are gearing up to Read More
Imagery/SensingAgtech: 10 Things I Hate About You!
September 4, 2018
Before you get bent out of shape from the title, remember if you’ve read my articles before you know I Read More
Kansas State University
Industry NewsKansas State University, Topcon Form Precision Ag Research Partnership
August 30, 2018
Kansas State University and Topcon Agriculture are collaborating to develop tools and systems to advance precision agriculture and support farmers. Read More
Blockchain building block graphic
Specialty CropsIs Blockchain the Future of Food Safety?
August 24, 2018
When the Internet Protocol Suite (TCP/IP) was standardized in 1982, permitting the worldwide proliferation of interconnected networks and eventually the Read More
WinField’s Joel Wipperfurth On Empowering Data-Driven Decisions
InfoAg ConferenceOne on One with Joel Wipperfurth, Winfield United
August 15, 2018
Winfield United's Joel Wipperfurth discusses ag technology trends and topics during last month’s InfoAg Conference. Read More
Industry NewsUrtheCast to Acquire Geosys from Land O’Lakes in $20 Million Deal
August 15, 2018
UrtheCast Corp. and Land O’Lakes, Inc. today announced they have entered a binding term sheet for the purchase of Geosys Read More
Latest News
AmericasFarmers Edge Announces New Retail-Facing Precision Ag P…
September 25, 2018
Farmers Edge announced the launch of a new solution designed exclusively for agricultural professionals to enhance their relationships with customers Read More
EventsAgricultural Robotics Take Center Stage at FIRA 2018
September 24, 2018
The future of agricultural innovation will continue to rely heavily on collaboration and exchange of ideas among all industry players. Read More
Corn field sunset
Decision Support SoftwareLand O’Lakes SUSTAIN Launches Ambitious Digital S…
September 24, 2018
Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN today announced its plan to roll out the Truterra Insights Engine, an interactive on-farm digital platform that Read More
Business ManagementIvy Tech, Farmers Partner to Help Precision Ag Educatio…
September 20, 2018
Harvest time has taken on a new meaning for some Wabash Valley farmers, and Bobbi Hunt-Kincaid hopes her family’s first Read More
Sensors/IoTThe Answer to Agriculture’s Daunting Challenges – Soil …
September 20, 2018
According to the United Nations, 9.6 billion people will live on planet Earth by 2050. Feeding these mouths will require Read More
Data ManagementRainfall Revisited: Accurate Observations and Beyond
September 18, 2018
As a provider of weather analysis and forecast services to the agricultural industry, one of the most common questions I Read More
Business ManagementWhy Is Funding a Challenge for Women-Led Agtech Compani…
September 17, 2018
When it comes to women-led agtech companies the funding discussion never seems to cease. In June after the The New Read More
Mobile Phone in field
Decision Support SoftwareWhy Are 570 Million Farmers Not Yet Using Agricultural …
September 17, 2018
Until recently, using agricultural apps and software was a rare practice among growers. This is now changing. The mass adoption Read More
Data ManagementAre You Using Your Soil to Its Full Potential?
September 14, 2018
Harvest is progressing across most parts of the U.S. and those growers who aren’t already harvesting are gearing up to Read More
Grower Services & SolutionsDeere-Granular Collaboration Produces New Profit Maps T…
September 14, 2018
The newest development from the ongoing John Deere-Granular product development and marketing collaboration is Profit Maps, now available to farmers Read More
DronesOpinion: Combining Two Pluses with the WingtraOne UAV
September 13, 2018
For the every-day consumer interested in UAVs, there is an ocean of products from which to choose. This includes the Read More
AsiaShould Agri-Input Manufacturers Outsource E-Commerce to…
September 12, 2018
Editor’s note: Venky Ramachandran is a contributing writer for’s sister site, This article was originally published on LinkedIn. Now, Read More
Industry NewsValley Irrigation Adds Remote Irrigation Management Opt…
September 11, 2018
Valley Irrigation, an industry leader in smart irrigation solutions, has announced enhancements to its remote management technologies. Multi-Year Licensing In Read More
Variable Rate ApplicationVariable Rate Fertigation System Expands with Mobile Co…
September 10, 2018
Building on the success of its Reflex Variable Rate Fertigation system, Agri-Inject has taken fluid injection to the next level Read More
Industry NewsTeralytic Earns Ag Data Transparent Certification
September 10, 2018
Soil analytics company Teralytic has completed the Ag Data Transparent certification, affirming that their data use is private, secure, and Read More
Business ManagementTop 20 Two-Year Colleges for Precision Agriculture
September 10, 2018
Earlier this year, I compiled a list of the 25 best colleges for precision agriculture. It was quite the process. Read More
Industry NewsRaven, Topcon Announce Slingshot API Agreement
September 6, 2018
Raven Industries and Topcon Agriculture announced today a licensing agreement for Topcon Agriculture’s use of the Slingshot Application Programming Interface Read More
Tablet Grower
Data ManagementThe Power of Predictive Analytics in Agriculture
September 5, 2018
Years ago if we would have been told computers, data, and technology would be scattered around every farm there may Read More