Collecting Farm Data: Getting to the Big Picture

Husker Home Place

High tech farm tools can overload farmers with information, unless we are focused on the larger operation goals.

Published on: November 19, 2012

I have become a big fan of technology. Although I’m a traditionalist at heart, I have seen the huge positive impact of technology on farms and ranches firsthand. I’m convinced that technology is the tool that will allow farmers of the future to feed the growing world population. No matter which direction we turn, technology is making waves.

The way we communicate, the way we select seed, view fertility, handle pests and build organic matter are all tied intimately to technology. I am a data junkie. I love the 24/7 news cycle, when everything can be viewed in real time. So, understandably, I can see how all of the yield and fertility data that can be collected in our fields these days can be translated into decision making that will boost our bottom line and increase efficient use of natural resources.


In future months, we’ll be writing a lot about technology in agriculture, how it is changing and expanding, and how farmers can use it to better their operations. But I do have a word of caution. Data and information overload in real time can cause an “overload hangover.” In other words, too much data, without taking the proper time to digest and analyze it, and without checking the numbers out by digging your fingernails into the soil and seeing growing crops with your own eyes to confirm what the data might be saying, can cause massive headaches down the road.

Sometimes the numbers are wrong, when viewed through the larger lens. Sometimes we have to look at the specifics closely, but keep the big picture in mind. Just because data might show fertility issues in small patches of your field doesn’t mean that a farmer should go whole hog in changing his fertility program. A little tweaking might do.

I applaud farmers and ranchers who are using technology for all the right reasons, and are growing their profits and preserving their land because of it. But, don’t get caught relying too heavily on the technology and not enough on that space between your ears. It still takes human decision making and good old horse sense to bring meaning to the numbers.

Be sure to watch and read our November print issue of Nebraska Farmer for news, information and tips on meeting the challenges of drought. Your best online resource for drought information is the Farm Progress drought site at