So you have collected your data in the fields -- now what? Let the choices begin.
If you collected data using a monitor, your first option is almost always the software that is offered by the company that makes your monitor. So, from Ag Leader you are going to look at SMS, John Deere has Apex and Trimble offers Farmworks. A couple more software packages that are not necessarily related to any hardware that you may also run into are SST and Map Shots.
You will likely have to use some combination of these software systems to get your data from raw format to a report.
I have not used all of these software packages but I have utilized a few of them. For getting general reports such as what was applied where and when all these packages work great. They also have the capability to clean up data if or when mistakes are made in the field.
More advanced reporting, such as net return per acre that require cost of inputs and crop pricing, try Farmworks or Map Shots. Be forewarned: the time required to get data organized and inputted correctly to generate these reports can be significant. Sometimes - and I have a few clients doing this - these programs are used as translation tools to take the data to another summarizing package.
For those with translated data or those using paper to collect data in the field, your options are broader than those using monitors. For most farmers who are new to record keeping and are looking for a way to organize their data in an electronic form, Excel usually is the place they start. Their spreadsheets start simple enough but, as they learn more and more about the functionality of Excel, these spreadsheets can become very large and complicated. I have seen many span multiple sheets and rely on pivot tables to extract data (you know who you are, and I am talking about you).
There is another Microsoft product that is similar to Excel in that the data is saved in rows and columns. Microsoft Access allows several spreadsheets to be tied together to get maximum efficiency from storing data in spreadsheet form.
With a little work a user can create a custom program for data entry and retrieval. I have done just this with a program that I created to help farmers keep track of their records.
The best thing about Access and using a system like this is that it can be customized to your specific needs. The reports are very flexible and can be as sophisticated or as simple as the situation requires.
I was happy to receive some emails from readers of previous blogs asking about how to obtain the calibration tools I put together. If you are interested in the record keeping program I constructed or if you need help developing your own record keeping system please let me know.